Following is the presentation made by the President of the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA), Ruggles Ferguson at a Special Sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in St Vincent & the Grenadines on July 20th, 2018 to pay tribute to its newly elected President, Justice Adrian Saunders:
It is my distinct honour on behalf of OCCBA, to join the distinguished line of speakers before me paying well-deserved tributes to Justice Adrian Saunders, newly elected President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – the first graduate of the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies and of our regional law schools to attain this lofty position.
In February 2018, OCCBA received with pride and pleasure the news of Justice Saunders’ elevation to the presidency of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), effective July 4, 2018.
Justice Saunders is indeed a most worthy successor to the illustrious and indefatigable Sir Dennis Byron, outgoing President, who has served the CCJ with honour and distinction over the past seven (7) transformative years.
We note that both Justice Saunders and Sir Dennis have worked side-by-side, tirelessly and selflessly, ever since the elevation of Justice Saunders to the High Court bench of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) in 1996, following his 19 years of dedicated service in private practice.
Both have been excellent and effective co-pilots over the last 22 years in a journey that first saw the positive transformation of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), particularly in the areas of technological innovation, new rules of civil procedure, judicial education, and court-connected mediation; and thereafter, together, both continued working within the wider Caribbean and Commonwealth to lift the quality of judicial education and strengthen the administration of justice.
For the past 22 years, Justice Saunders has served the bench with distinction at every level. Over those years, he has written several scholarly, incisive and landmark judgments, showed exemplary leadership ability in his Chairmanship of several committees of the ECSC and in his pivotal role in building the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO), and demonstrated enormous organisational capacity and versatility – sitting on the bench, preparing judgments, organising seminars, delivering lectures, writing articles, editing publications, and teaching and correcting scripts.
Indeed, the entire life experience of Justice Saunders more than adequately prepares him for this very special assignment of leading the CCJ, at a time when many countries are taking active steps and/or giving due consideration to joining the appellate jurisdiction, Grenada and Antigua being the latest examples.
During the presidency of Justice Saunders we look forward to all the other countries of the region joining Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica in the appellate jurisdiction.
With the passage of time, consistent public education, and continuing sound and timely judgments from the court, we are confident that Caribbean people will all be inspired to fully embrace the appellate jurisdiction, sooner rather than later.
Justice Saunders has had a unique history and experience of viewing the law from many different perspectives: as a seasoned private practitioner, High Court judge, Justice of Appeal, Chief Justice (Ag) of the ECSC, and Judge of the CCJ for the past 13 years. Overall, he brings to the presidency 41 well-rounded years of experience in the legal profession.
We note that during his very busy period of private practice, Justice Saunders found time to actively participate in the work of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association and the OECS Bar Association.
We note too his willingness to work with and assist in the development and strengthening of Bar Associations, particularly in the area of continuing legal education.
We well remember his presentation at our last OCCBA Biennial Meeting in Miami in March 2018 on the topic “OCCBA and some disparate aspects of the rule of law in the Caribbean”.
Out of that presentation flowed his passion for stamping out delays in the justice system generally, and, more specifically in the criminal justice system where it touches and concerns the liberty of the subject.
He emphasised the need for Bar Associations to be more proactive and to become true guardians of the rule of law, protecting and advancing fundamental rights and freedoms. His message has certainly not fallen on deaf ears.
On this momentous occasion, we call on Bar Associations throughout the Caribbean to join in the public education campaign on the CCJ.
Let’s make our people more aware of the tremendous advantages of joining the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, as we strive to complete the cycle of our independence and to ensure that justice becomes accessible to all, in a more efficient and cost effective manner.
Let’s remind our governments and opposition parties in the region of the binding agreement entered into by CARICOM states in February 2001 committing to join the appellate jurisdiction.
Joining the CCJ is not a choice it is a duty pursuant to a binding agreement. Let’s not make a mockery of the agreements we enter into.
Justice Saunders – our re-invigorated and re-energised OCCBA wishes you well in your expected challenging but rewarding journey as President of our premier Caribbean judicial institution. We assure you of OCCBA’s full support in your continuing efforts to strengthen the administration of justice and the rule of law.
With every best wish to you, your dear wife Marilyn and your entire family.