In his maiden address as head of the judiciary, Chief Justice Brian Moree, QC, yesterday foreshadowed changes designed to reform and modernize the court system.
It was the first time since 2017 that a confirmed chief justice has presided over the ceremony to mark the opening of the legal year.
Moree condemned the deplorable conditions of the courts and spoke of the need for a singular judicial complex.
He announced plans for electronic filing of applications in the Supreme Court, the removal of nonjudicial functions from registrars and the chief magistrate and changes to the probate rules, among other initiatives.
He also implored the executive to release its hold on the judiciary’s purse by passing the Court Administration Bill.
Moree foreshadowed the process for the electronic filing of applications. This process will require lawyers and unrepresented defendants to fill out an online requisition form at bahamasjudiciary.com and upload supporting documents.
On submission of the form, Moree said, filing parties would receive an automatic confirmation email and would be notified of their court dates by email.
He said, “Until we launch the e-filing service, this procedure will run parallel with the current manual procedure but will reduce the problems associated with misplaced files and missing documents.”
Moree encouraged all lawyers to register their emails with the listing officer.
There will be provisions for unrepresented litigants without email access, he said.
Moree said the Magistrates Courts Act requires an update that reflects the status of magistrates as judicial officers.
He said that the $5,000 limit for civil claims before a magistrate needs to be increased to reduce the “large volume of smaller money claims in the Supreme Court”.
Moree said he plans to appoint administrators in both the Supreme Court and the Magistrates’ Court to perform non-judicial functions within the courts.
In the Supreme Court, “registrars will, for the most part, refocus on judicial duties hearing certain types of interlocutory applications”, said Moree.
He continued, “We are reviewing all aspects of the work in the Magistrates’ Court including the way in which cases are assigned, the current type of cases which the different Magistrates Courts are dealing with and the distribution of work between the magistrates.
“We are also moving to ensure that external parties or agencies that provide services to the court through alternative sentencing procedures are certified and are properly accountable to court authorities.”
Moree announced automated terminals for the payment and receipt of child support and the publication of cause lists and judgments on the court’s website.
He said, “Our intention is to change the trajectory of the judiciary through incremental progress in different areas. I invite all stakeholders to join me in order to achieve something which is bigger than any of us – the reform and modernization of our entire court system to better serve the people of The Bahamas.”