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CJ hopes to modernize courts

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree planned to modernize the judiciary through the use of technology.

Speaking at the ceremony to mark the Opening of the Legal Year, Sir Brian boasted of achieving success with “laser focus”.

With the implementation of the Court Automated Payment System (CAPS), long lines at the Magistrates’ Courts Complex to either pay or collect child support will be a thing of the past.

Once online, people will send and receive money with the local cash app, Kanoo.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the previous system had made the child support money prone to theft and fraud.

Sir Brian said the bail application system will be completely automated by the end of February.

Attorneys can now receive dates through the court’s website bahamasjudiciary.com, instead of coming to the Listing Office, Sir Brian said.

Sir Brian said the judiciary now had its own information communication technology team.

He said that all judges, magistrates and registrars will receive new laptops, workstations, scanners and printers as part of their technology kit.

Sir Brian pledged a commitment to reducing the turnaround on probate applications. However, he said that attorneys had to ensure that their documents were in the proper form.

Sir Brian said that he intended to appoint several acting justices in order to tackle the backlog.

The other judges will continue with their calendars “to ensure there is not an increase to our backlog going forward,” he said.

These judges will be asked to complete “a portfolio” of backlogged cases within a nine-month period.

Sir Brian said he intends to address “serious issues” in the Juvenile Court.

“This court deals with the future of our country, young people,” he said.

“I have indicated to the presiding magistrate of that court that I intend to work with her and the chief magistrate during the first quarter of this year to make significant changes.”

Sir Brian said that he intended to propose legislative changes to enhance that the process.

“The fact of the matter is, we have to do better in the juvenile court,” he said.

“There are systemic, institutional issues; there are administrative issues; there are legislative issues. It is my intention to focus on the juvenile court to address some of these matters.

“There is a significant backlog that needs to be addressed. It is very possible that I will appoint a second juvenile court for a period of time.”

Sir Brian said the judiciary would achieve true independence with the passage of the Court Services Bill.

He lamented that his timeline for the implementation of new civil procedure rules had been delayed “by external factors”.

He said he expected to circulate a working draft of the new rules to the committee members by the end of the month and it would be released to the bar for consultation by February.”

Sir Brian said that he hoped to increase the $5,000 limit for magistrates in civil cases to $15,000 or $20,000.

He said that the government’s decision to return bail powers to magistrates would result in improved efficiency.

The ceremony was held in Rawson Square to accord with COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

The ceremony is usually held in the main Supreme Court building on Bank Lane.

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Artesia Davis

Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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