By: Chancellor of the Judiciary (Ag),
Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards
July 28, 2017 was a proud day for the Judiciary of Guyana. All the various divisions of the High Court are now housed in one compound – the Land Court has come home, so to speak, to take its place next to the new Family Court and other divisions of the High Court.
This new wing comprises three Civil Courts and the Land Court.
The Land Court, being a division of the High Court, has come full circle. It was first housed in the Maraj Building. Then it went to share premises in Brickdam with the offices of the Police Complaints Authority, Office of the Ombudsman, Public Service Appellate Tribunal, the Bar Association and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers.
It has finally found its way back home, like the prodigal child.
This allows for easier physical access to justice for the litigant and Attorneys-at-Law, easier management of the court and the registries and saving of expenses.
The idea of an addition to the then existing High Court building, the representation to the Minister of Finance for funding for construction, the liaison with the engineering consultants and the general oversight of its construction, was not ours. The Acting Chief Justice and I can lay no claim to fame in that regard.
The vision and its ultimate fruition belong to none other than the Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh.
This new wing will accommodate courtrooms with modern technology, as we are hoping to have in the not-too-distant future, an E-Judiciary.
An E-Judiciary system would allow court documents to be filed, served and extracted electronically. Legal professionals would enjoy easy and convenient submission of court documents and online access to active case files using intuitive electronic filing (eFiling).
At the same time, judicial officers can enjoy improved efficiency and effectiveness in handling court cases and schedules, with features such as Court Case Management System. Countries such as Singapore, UAE, Namibia and Mauritius have implemented E-Judiciary systems.
This has led to the faster disposition of cases in those jurisdictions.
This is indeed a new era for the High Court in Georgetown. We see this new building as the start of a modern era involving changes which will improve access to justice.
I hasten to add that our beautiful Victorian architecture and Tudor architectural style will not be destroyed in the process.
Being under the watchful eyes of the National Trust, historians and aficionados of certain types of architecture and antiques, and having the love for it ourselves, we have always been careful in that regard.
I wish to note that the new physical structure is accompanied by the new Civil Procedures Rules 2017 and Family Proceeding Rules 2016.
These new regimes have brought Guyana into the era of case management and direction hearings which, at their core, are designed to eliminate the steps that are associated with delays and to make judges the drivers of pace of litigation.
The new civil procedure rules entails faster disposal of cases. The time line for first hearing of a case is now set between two and 28 days.
Since these new rules have been implemented (within the last 5 months), 1,258 cases were filed.
Out of that number, almost half of those cases have been disposed of.
This is the context in which we must view the new structures that have been added to the juridical landscape of the High Court. This demonstrates our commitment to the overall improvement of the administration in the High Court as well as the belief that, as a modern judiciary, it is critical that the public is kept informed about important aspects of the work of the judiciary.
To us, public confidence in the judiciary is an imperative.
(Article taken from the Guyana Inc. Magazine Edition 27)