Outspoken Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden who was once opposed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is now calling on the electorate to vote “yes” for the country to accede to the Trinidad and Tobago headquartered court in the upcoming October 27 referendum poll.
Clouden called a press conference at his law office on Lucas Street last week Friday to urge Grenadians to abandon the British Privy Council and instead make the CCJ the final appellate court in Grenada.
“This is a clarion call for Grenadians to seize the opportunity to join the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its appellate jurisdiction by voting yes for the country to accede to the regional court”, he told reporters.
“The CCJ is uniquely placed for us to take advantage of and our people would have a more expeditious delivery and access to justice at the highest level”, he said.
The long-standing attorney-at-law pointed to the many benefits to be derived from acceding to the CCJ, including accessibility to justice for all litigants, convenience and reduced costs as opposed to travelling at extreme cost to the Privy Council in England.
“The first compelling argument to Grenada acceding to the CCJ is one of accessibility,” Clouden declared, expressing the view that geography has put us (Grenada) in an enviable position to the court (which is located) 45 nautical miles from here.”
He noted that “Grenada is the next island travelling north from Trinidad and Tobago”.
“…We are even closer to the court than Guyana, who is a member of the Court in its appellate and original jurisdiction”, he said.
Although the court is located in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad has not acceded to its appellate jurisdiction.
According to Attorney Clouden, litigants with matters before the CCJ can afford to leave Grenada at 7.00 a.m, appear before the court at 9.00 a.m, and return to Grenada with the last flight at 10.00 p.m.
He said that going to England to appear before the Privy Council “is extremely costly (because) you have to retain lawyers from here to travel (and) you have to find accommodation for the lawyers and the litigants in England.”
The seasoned attorney, who has been practicing law for more than 30 years has visited the Privy Council more times than any other lawyer in the country.
“It would have not been possible had the cost not been paid by some charitable organisation in England,” Clouden told reporters.
He also expressed the view that due to the cost “there is limited access to the Privy Council for the poor man (especially) in the civil jurisdiction of the court because he cannot afford it.”
He said “the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, has become a de-facto final court of appeal for the handicapped and poverty stricken Grenadian,” but this would not be the case under the CCJ.
“The benefits in this regard is that all litigants can appear before the CCJ,” he said, adding, “what is more, the CCJ is willing to travel to Grenada if needs be to sit on certain cases, be it at the litigants and the lawyers request (with assistance from the CCJ) trust fund.”
Clouden referred to a comment made by the Privy Council in one of its judgments in which it described the CCJ as a “regional court with complete independence”.
“Indeed there is a wall between the appointment of the judges and the politicians-at-large so that the politician can have absolutely no influence on this court with respect to the appointment of judges,” who he noted “are appointed by a Judicial and Legal Services Commission (that) does not lend itself to extraneous influences and this is one of the hallmarks of this court,” he said.
The attorney said the commission comprises “people who are not necessarily directly involved with the day to day administration of the court, who are what you call very important people in the different spheres of activity (and) is devoid of politics.”
Clouden placed on record his dedication to the proposition that “we must sever the umbilical cord, delink from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and join our regional court.”
He holds the view that in so doing “it will develop a regional jurisprudence, the judgments will have a regional aspect to it and therefore it will bring greater certainty to the law.”
He described the move to delink from the Privy Council as “the last effort we would make in liberating ourselves from England.”