Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree on Wednesday once again highlighted the need for the judiciary to have financial independence as he expressed disappointment that the Minnis administration failed to pass the Court Services Bill.
This will be Moree’s last time presiding over the ceremony to mark the Opening of the Legal Year as he retires this year.
Moree said, “It is folly to try to measure the value of the administration of justice in terms of dollars and cents. Properly understood, it is essential to all else, which is essential to a civilized and ordered society.”
Moree said under the constitution, the judiciary is an independent branch of government, and therefore, “this constitutional status must be reflected in the reality of the conduct of our operations, thereby strengthening the constitutional independence of the judiciary”.
He added, “The judiciary must not be treated as another government department or agency. It bears reminding the public that it is an independent judiciary that is the ultimate custodian of your rights and liberties. If we are to fulfill our vital constitutional role, the judiciary must be given adequate financial resources, competent staff, proper equipment and supplies and suitable premises to operate the courts. The judiciary needs to have more control over its administrative, financial and operational matters in order to implement the necessary reforms within the court system.”
Though disappointed that the bill had not been passed into law, prior to the dissolution of Parliament ahead of the September 16 general election, Moree said he had received assurances from Attorney General Ryan Pinder that the new Progressive Liberal Party administration would give the bill “urgent attention”.
He said, “I strongly urge the government to reintroduce the Court Services Bill in the House of Assembly and expedite its passage and enactment into law.
“The bill, if passed, will be a transformative intervention, which would fundamentally change the operations of the courts.”
Moree said that he expected the case management system and the e-filing system in civil cases, initiatives that have been in the works for the past two years, to go live this year.
Moree said so far, 3.2 million pages of court records had been digitized and that an additional 4.5 million will be digitized by the end of July.
As of March 7, all bail applications in the Supreme Court will be filed through the bail management system.
He said the Court Automated Payment System, which is supposed to make the payment and receipt of child support payments easier, was completely operational and that the judiciary hoped to increase its use through a public education program.
Moree said the court had automated the process of obtaining court hearing dates and that dates are often given within 14 days of hearing the requests.