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Legal Year Officially Opens, with Changes Forecast

Legal Year Officially Opens, with Changes Forecast

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Legal Year of the country’s judiciary is officially opened. A ceremony marking the event was held on Wednesday, January 11, 2023.  The ceremonies included a Church Service at Christ Church Cathedral, George Street; Inspection of the Guard on George Street; and a Special Sitting to mark the opening in the Compass Ballroom of Margaritaville Beach Resort (chosen as a venue because of flooding in the Supreme Court Building on Bank Lane). 

On Sunday, January 8, members of the Judiciary worshiped at the annual Red Mass held at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, conducted by Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nassau, the Most Reverend Patrick C. Pinder. He was assisted by Rev’d Glen Nixon and Deacon Samuel Mitchell. 

Presiding over the church service at Christ Church Cathedral, Wednesday, was the Right Reverend Laish Z. Boyd, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.  He was assisted by the Very Reverend Harry Bain, Dean and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral, and Reverend Father Eric Miller, Assistant Curate. During his sermon, Rev. Bain urged the jurists to always uphold the integrity of their profession and encouraged them to meet and maintain the proper balance between work and life. He also sent out a charge to the government to build a new Supreme Court to properly execute judicial matters.

During the Special Sitting at Margaritaville, the Hon. Mr. Chief Justice, Sir Ian R. Winder, Kt., welcomed officials and guests to the ceremony and gave an overview of the objectives forecast for the Judiciary during the upcoming year. The ceremony also marked Chief Justice Winder’s inaugural address to the Judiciary, since he was just appointed in August 2022. 

He commenced by expressing gratitude for his appointment and thanked all who participated in the ceremonies.

The Chief Justice said that many changes are in the  pipeline for the Judiciary. He also explained that the current makeup of the Judiciary will change with the retirement of three Judges; and there will be several other personnel changes. Retiring this year are Appeal Court Justice Carolita Bethel, who demits Office in April; Justice Diane Stewart, who demits Office in February, and Justice Indira Charles, who demits in June.

Justice Charles will act in the Court of Appeal effective February 1 until her retirement in June during the pre-retirement leave of Justice Carolita Bethel. 

He said that five new Judges will be appointed this year. Two judges will serve in the commercial and civil divisions; one will be assigned to the criminal division; one will be assigned to the Family division and one will be assigned to the northern region to preside over both criminal and civil divisions. 

He also discussed promotions; training opportunities (facilitated in partnerships with the United States Embassy); and movement of personnel throughout the Judiciary.

In addition, he discussed the longstanding issue of the backlog of cases, especially in the criminal division. He also voiced his support for Judge-alone trials, which, he said would significantly reduce the backlog of cases. 

He echoed recommendations made by his predecessors, Sir Hartman Longley and Sir Burton Hall who pushed for Judge-only trials during their tenure. “ We must find ways to counter this decrease in the speed at which criminal trials can be concluded, without affecting its fairness,” he said. 

Chief Justice Winder  also discussed upgrades in Court technology and he lamented the conditions of the courts, but said he is optimistic that the government will address that shortly as the government has stated the effort to procure a complete modern complex is scheduled in the short term.

In conclusion, he took a moment to pause to remember the life of retired Justice Roger Gomez , who passed away on Monday, January 9. He also thanked his predecessor, Sir Brian Moree for his work during his tenure, especially with the implementation of digital technology.

Delivering remarks on behalf of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, was Minister of State, the Hon. Jomo Campbell, who also observed a moment of silence for Justice Gomez. After congratulating Chief Justice Winder, State Minister Campbell said that the government is fully committed to working with the Judiciary. 

He also announced that The Bahamas is now compliant or “largely” compliant with the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). He said that it has been a long and challenging process but this places the country back into its rightful place as a leader in the financial services sector. 

He said that the government continues in its efforts to elevate the country and serve the citizens to the best of its ability. “As we forge into our indeterminate future, let us continue to work together for the betterment of our country.”

President of the Bahamas Bar Association, Mr. Khalil Parker, KC, also delivered remarks during the sitting. He congratulated Chief Justice Winder on his appointment and assured him that the association would continue to work to keep the standards of the legal profession elevated. He discussed some of the initiatives undertaken at the Bahamas Bar and also joined the others in their call for for a new Supreme Court complex.

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