Home / View Point / Guest Columns / PITT STOP: The case for the CCJ; a retired judge turns advocate

PITT STOP: The case for the CCJ; a retired judge turns advocate

“Judicial decisions are made on the basis of relevant evidence properly brought before the court, to which the governing law is applied. Judges are not like parents or bosses, whose decision making power emanates solely from their status.

“What is more, judges operate within a very critical legal community—both domestic and foreign—which gives them enormous incentive to be recognised for the quality of their decisions. In other words, to protect their own reputations, they have a compelling motivation to ‘get it right’.”

Wired868 columnist and ex-judge Romain Pitt makes a case for the CCJ:

Photo: A court gavel and miniature statute of Lady Justice.
Photo: A court gavel and miniature statute of Lady Justice.

The Caribbean people who wanted independence would, I feel fairly certain, support the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) if the following were clear to them:

Judges cannot make decisions arbitrarily, as they are not only required to follow the law but must provide a legal reason or reasons for every decision they make, failing which, the decision will, on the face of it, be null and void.

Judicial decisions are made on the basis of relevant evidence properly brought before the court, to which the governing law is applied. Judges are not like parents or bosses, whose decision making power emanates solely from their status.

What is more, judges operate within a very critical legal community—both domestic and foreign—which gives them enormous incentive to be recognised for the quality of their decisions. In other words, to protect their own reputations, they have a compelling motivation to “get it right.”

Finally, decisions of trial judges are, with few exceptions, subject to review by a panel of at least three judges of higher jurisdiction. It is at this point the CCJ enters the picture. It is a court of appeal of at least three judges often—though not always—“the best and the brightest.” With the aid of law clerks, perhaps even more consistently “the brightest,” and other research aides, those appeal judges are required to determine whether the trial judge properly applied the law to the facts presented at the trial.

Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Photo: Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

They do not ordinarily hear evidence. The arguments presented to them are of a purely legal nature. The record of what has transpired in the trial court is brought before them so that they can determine whether the trial judge “got it right” as far as the law is concerned.

The existence of appeal court judges is one of the reasons trial judges are keen to be legally right in their decisions and the appeal judges of the CCJ will want nothing better than a reputation for scholarship. They know that their important judgments will be read widely, not only throughout the Caribbean but certainly in most Commonwealth countries.

The risk that judges of the CCJ will be influenced by external forces is no greater than in the case of law lords although the external forces may be different.

About Romain Pitt

Roman Pitt is a retired judge of the Ontario Superior Court Justice, a founding director of Caribana and played a leading role in creation of the Black Business Professional Association and the Sickle Cell Association of Canada. He holds the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for contributions to law and the community. He was born in Grenada.

Check Also

‘Spectacularly disingenuous and misleading!’ DPP response to Chief Justice’s criticisms

“[…] The Judiciary’s decision [concerning the filing of indictments by the Office of the DPP], …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

14 comments

  1. How are appeal judges selected?

    • Ok thanks. It makes a lot less sense now and I don’t mean your reply.

    • I don’t know how the CCJ judges are appointed. The issue of judges being a representative of the community will be a serious concern for the CCJ as well as T&T as our society evolves and gets older. Judges dominating the judiciary from a privileged background is a serious concern in the U.K. This issue receives very critical comments from the current justices who sit in the UK Supreme Court and Privy Council. The criteria in the UK is constantly adjusted to get more BAME applicants as the judges are considered old, pale and stale

    • Well I imagine that would be a serious concern. But I would hope that the selection criteria would be improved beyond simply diversifying the communities they come from.

    • They are making the pool of applicants more inclusive. Who eventually gets appointed may be another story. One benefit of the policy has been more female judicial appointees.

    • So you mean to tell me the point is simply to make the pool more inclusive? A benefit is more female appointees? Good grief. The other side of exclusive.

    • I apologize if you misunderstood. The comment was not made to undermine the significance of diversity or diversifying the pool. I just meant it should not be simply that. As you pointed out above who does the selection is important. But most importantly is a process that takes these into consideration. It is however, a small part I am sure, of wider selection criteria. Or at least I hope.

    • It is. It is a criteria for widening the pool of applicants in the hope that the persons appointed will not be only those who are viewed as old, Male, pale and stale. Very few BAME applicants were applying for judicial appointments. Based on who were actually appointed, it may have been viewed by those who met the criteria to apply as a waste of time. The actual selection process is different.

    • Good question. Who appoints judges are also an important issue. In the U.K. the chairman of
      the judicial appointments committee is a layman. There are six laymen on the committee. The head of the judiciary does not chair the committee. This is done to get judges who represent the population. How many judges can you identify that came from a challenged community?

    • In the U.K. with a dominant white population, it is an issue. A judge’s background is very important to them because of the power he/ she wields and the impact a sentence has on a person’s life especially if it is someone from a different ethnicity and social standing. They go further by having an appeals commission to review criminal cases where persons can seek to get their sentence overturned if a miscarriage of justice occurred. Judges are human and like us we’re brought up with certain views and biases. Being appointed a judge does not change who they are.

  2. We Independent. Really! The British are begging us to leave the Privy Council, but nay sayers with their own agenda continue to oppose forward movement. We have been blessed with not only qualified and experienced judges throughout the Caribbean, but men and women who have held high offices in the International arena. PM and President Robinson was instrument in the creation of the ICC, etc, so why are the present crop (who have no status externally ) objecting to the changes for the development of the region. FORWARD movement to the CCJ

  3. You can understand the law .How it works in actual practice. Engaging, compelling and provocative.
    Knowing what rules you are supposed to extract from a case and how all the rules of engagement fit together. Brings the legal elements of argumentation to closure.
    The principles and policies of the litigation process in every case engage you in the procedure of thinking about the law in the same way that good Socratic classes do.
    Law is voluminous and complex, but accessible to everyone
    You can understand the law .How it works in actual practice. Engaging, compelling and provocative.
    Knowing what rules you are supposed to extract from a case and how all the rules of engagement fit together. Brings the legal elements of argumentation to closure.
    The principles and policies of the litigation process in every case engage you in the procedure of thinking about the law in the same way that good Socratic classes do.
    Law is voluminous and complex, but accessible to everyone
    You can understand the law .How it works in actual practice. Engaging, compelling and provocative.
    Knowing what rules you are supposed to extract from a case and how all the rules of engagement fit together. Brings the legal elements of argumentation to closure.
    The principles and policies of the litigation process in every case engage you in the procedure of thinking about the law in the same way that good Socratic classes do.

  4. I tend to agree with the author. One concern is the cost of litigation caused by legal fees and the length of time certain cases takes to conclude, will deny applicants access to justice. This will affect the CCJ. If the cost of litigation remains as is, only persons with financial means as currently pertains will access the CCJ. If ordinary folks cannot afford to access the CCJ, the development of the law is hampered. A decision of a judge can be overturned only on appeal. If there is no appeal then the decision stands. There should be a body established to review and appeal selected referred cases where a miscarriage of justice may have occurred as not all applicants can afford an appeal to the Supreme Court, far less to the CCJ. I support the CCJ being the final appellate court, more so after Brexit!