After years of delays, Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree, QC said he expects to put into effect the new civil procedure rules (CPR) which would include a formal, structured mediation process for the court system before April.
The CPR was initially expected to come into effect in June 2013, but suffered a number of delays; and then again last April, however the COVID-19 pandemic caused another delay.
“We are in the process of replacing the current Supreme Court rules with the new civil procedure rules (CPR). We’ve been working on that for some time, it has been delayed for numerous reasons. But I did state in my speech at the opening of the legal year that we now expect to promulgate these rules sometime before Easter,” Sir Brian said during a virtual symposium held on alternative dispute resolution by the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration.
“That gives us the unique opportunity to incorporate – as a level of subsidiary legislation which is what the rules are – a formal structured mediation process into our procedure and that is what we intend to do.”
The new rules are a part of modernizing the court system, which is still operating under the current rules which were promulgated more than 40 years ago in 1978.
Speaking specifically to plans to improve civil and commercial litigation, Sir Brian said the new rules will have a component which is called Court Connected Mediation.
“It will start in the civil, family and commercial divisions. We are going to establish a Court Connected Mediation Committee and also a Mediation Unit within the court system. The Court Connected Mediators will have to be certified by the Bahamas Judicial Education Institute and placed on a roster of mediators. I have been consulting with a number of you who are participating in this symposium on your assistance and views on establishing a very high-level roster of mediators who would be available to parties who choose to exercise their right to go to mediation,” he said.
“The CCAMC, which would be the operational supervisor of the mediation component, will monitor compliance with the mediators with a code of ethics and will also address any complaints and assess the effectiveness of the process, as well as make recommendations to the chief justices as and if necessary.”
Sir Brian said the new rules would also give judges jurisdiction to order a court matter be sent to mediation if parties do not agree to one.
“Even if there is no agreement, the registrar or a judge under the rules will retain the jurisdiction to make an order referring any civil family or commercial acts filed in the court to mediation. Once the referral order is made, the mediation will be selected. There’s a process for that. It’s either done by the parties or if the parties cannot agree within a certain amount of time, the mediator will be appointed by the mediation coordinator,” he said.
“The mediation coordinator will be responsible for scheduling the mediation sessions.”
The Bahamian civil procedure rules have been drafted on the basis of the civil procedure rules from England, New Zealand, the Cayman Islands and Barbados, taking the rules of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court as a guide.