Two non-Caribbean nationals are among the six judges serving on the Bench of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), following the retirement of St. Kitts national, Sir Michael Dennis Byron as CCJ President in July.
They are Justices Jacob Wit from The Netherlands and David Hayton from the United Kingdom, both of whom specialise in particular areas of Law.
According to the CCJ website, the non-Caribbean nationals are two of the longest serving judges on the CCJ Bench, having been with the court since June 2005, approximately two months after its inauguration in April that year.
The other justices include – CCJ President, Vincentian Adrian Saunders, who has also been with the court since 2005, along with Justice Winston Charles Anderson from Jamaica (2010 – present), Madame Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee from Trinidad & Tobago (2014 – present) and Justice Denys Arthur Barrow from Belize (2017 – present).
A document handed out to individuals attending the CCJ Advisory Committee organised educational forums, outlines “some facts on acceding to the CCJ as the final court of appeal,” one of those being touted is that it would be “an opportunity to build up mature Caribbean Jurisprudence-judges from the region would be more acquainted with our cultural and sociological norms.”
However, the CCJ advocates, touting Caribbean Jurisprudence, have failed to inform and explain at these education forums, the appointment or the logic behind the appointments of the non-Caribbean nationals who are judges on the CCJ.
In response to questions posed by THE NEW TODAY in an exclusive interview, Acting Attorney General Sir Lawrence Joseph noted that the two foreign judges are specialising in specific areas of law.
He said Justice Wit, who is the lone Civil Law Judge on the CCJ Bench “specialises in matters, which originate from a Civil Code as Suriname has.”
According to Sir Lawrence, in Grenada, like other CARICOM countries within the OECS, “our law generally stems from the British law called Common Law but Suriname on the other hand, their law stems from Holland and they use a different system of law called the Civil Code.
“So, this Justice Wit is from Holland, he knows how to determine matters which arise out of the Civil Code because Suriname has the Civil Code as their system of law, so that’s the reason why they have Justice Wit there, to deal with specific matters coming from Suriname, because Suriname is part of the court (CCJ),” said Sir Lawrence.
On the other hand, Justice David Hayton specialises in an area of law called “the law of trusts,” which according to Sir Lawrence “is an area of law usually arising in the Caribbean area.
“So, because of that they have identified him as being a good person to have on the court,” he said.
“So, it’s a good mix that they have there,” he added.
The Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) appoints judges to sit on the CCJ.
The eleven-member Commission is headed by a Court President who serves as Chairman of the Commission. The other members of the commission are appointed by regional legal, educational and public sector institutions.
The President of the Court is appointed by participating Caribbean States on the Commission’s recommendation and may only be removed on the Commission’s recommendation.
Judges may only be removed from office by a tribunal’s recommendation.
According to the CCJ website, Article 1X states, that the President of the Court holds office “for a non-renewable term of 7 years or until he attains the age of seventy-two years.”
A judge of the court “shall hold office until he attains the age of seventy-two years”.
The CCJ is the judicial institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Established in 2001, it is based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The CCJ sits at 134 Henry Street in Port of Spain.
In July, 2014, Dominica’s Parliament approved a bill to make the CCJ the final court of appeal and Dominica acceded to the CCJ in the appellate jurisdiction on March 6, 2015.
Following a failed attempt in the November 2016 referendum poll, the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s is making yet another attempt to secure a yes vote for the CCJ, amidst calls in many circles for a postponement due to flaws cited by varying legal minds.
The island’s second referendum poll will be held Tuesday (November 6).