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More attorneys needed to address case backlog

Acting Attorney General Darshan Ramdhani

Acting Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani has cited the need for more legal practitioners to help reduce the backlog of cases presently before the court.

“We need more lawyers to continue to drive that process, AG Ramdhani told his colleagues who gathered at High Courts # 3 and 4 for a special court sitting last week Monday to commemorate the historic opening of the New Law Year, held for the first time in January.

“We need lawyers to answer that call to support these processes to ensure that we give of ourselves and that way, if we are to move in this new decade and to strive for excellence, this is how we are going to contribute individually to this process – this backlog that we have today in Grenada requires a collaborative effort,” said the Guyanese-born lawyer.

The AG called on his colleagues to familiarise themselves with the ‘moral compass’ governing the profession as they execute their duties.

“In answering that call to service we must be mindful of the moral compass…the code of conduct that governs the legal profession…”, he said.

“I want to call on all practitioners, including myself, in representing our clients (and) in assisting the court in dispensing justice, it is important…that we ensure that we are familiar with all the etiquettal rules of behaviour…and try to apply them in our day to day work,” he added.

Chief Justice Janice Pereira

Pointing to this year’s theme: “A new era for achieving court excellence” and the many challenges the court faced in past decades and particularly, within the last year, President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Attorney-at-Law Lisa Taylor, used the opportunity to call on practitioners, especially the younger ones to claim the excellent future that the theme encourages.

“This goal can only be achieved with hard work and dedication (and) it also cannot come without protecting the profession and I join with the learned Attorney General in his reminder of the absolute necessity to recall from time to time the moral compass…we should consider the corrosive effect that those who behave in errant behaviour, the effect it has on each of us,” Attorney Taylor added.

A total of 145 matters from the September 2019 assizes were traversed to the January 2020 Assizes, which opened last week with the opening of the New Law Year.

President of the Grenada Bar Association Lisa Taylor

In her special address, OECS Chief Justice, Dame Janice Pereira described as a “mammoth effort” the 4133 matters that were completed out of a total of 6791 cases filed throughout the various territories at the high court level in 2018, marking a clearance rate of 60.87%.

The Chief Justice noted that the clearance rates of the various high courts were mostly below 100% in 2018 indicating an accumulation of case backlog.

“In 2018, only Antigua and Barbuda achieved a clearance rate of above 100% indicating a reduction on the case backlog. In that same year the clearance rates in some of the high courts were below 50% Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica, which recorded the lowest clearance rate of 22.45%,” she pointed out.

The Chief Justice acknowledged that “the court is under-resourced both in terms of human and financial capital,” and called on “legal practitioners who are imminently qualified to step up to the plate and serve, not on a part time basis but full time.

“It has been said that some of our finest work comes from service to others,” Dame Janice said.

She added that throughout the court’s jurisdiction “out of necessity, the court often engage acting judges just to enable sufficiency of panels at the appellate level,” which recorded 513 appeals filed in 2018, a 24.22% increase over 2017, (with) 1228 appeal matters heard in 2018 (and) only a total of 742 oral and written decisions delivered over the same period.

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