Top award for Bahamian jurists

Former Court of Appeal Presidents Dame Joan Sawyer and Dame Anita Allen have been named by the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy of Law and the Pioneering Caribbean Women Jurists Committee to receive the academy’s 2021 Eminent Women Jurists Award.

They are among 34 eminent women jurists in the Caribbean, including Haiti and Suriname, who were selected to receive the honor.

The announcement was made concurrently on Tuesday with the launch of the book, “Pioneering Caribbean Women Jurists”, which states its purpose as “a celebration of the contribution of 34 eminent women jurists to the development of our Caribbean Society”.

The book contains the biographies and autobiographies of the women selected, which chronicles their struggles and accomplishments, and is available for purchase from October 25, 2021 at smedina@ccj.org.

The announcement of the honorees, and the launch of the book, were preceded by a speech from President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Justice Adrian Saunders, who described the women as “exceptional”, “great”, and “the best of the Caribbean”.

He further paid tribute to their “hard work”, “indomitable spirits”, “unmatched achievements” and the “momentous ripples” they made both in their countries and in the Caribbean as a whole.

Saunders acknowledged that the Pioneering Caribbean Women Jurists Committee was happy to be a part of the sterling contributions of the honorees, and Madam Justice Rajnauth-Lee, justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice, expressed the hope that the book, which “delves into the journeys of these phenomenal women”, will inspire others to live exceptional lives.

The 34 honorees were all women jurists (i.e. women with expert knowledge of the law) and included heads of state, heads of government, judicial officers, public servants, business persons, officers of regional and international organizations, legal activists and outstanding legal practitioners.

Among the honorees were Paula-Mae Weekes, ORTT, a former justice and first woman president of Trinidad and Tobago; Her Excellency Dame Sandra Mason, former Court of Appeal Justice and governor general of Barbados; Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados; Kamila Persaud, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago; Madam Justice Zaila McCalla(ret.) O.J., chief justice of Jamaica between 2007 and 2018; Dame Janice Pereira, the first female chief justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; the late Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, the first and only woman prime minister of Dominica; and Dame Billie Miller, the first female Cabinet minister of Barbados, who also served as deputy prime minister of Barbados.

Dame Joan was the first woman justice of the Bahamas Supreme Court, the first woman chief justice of The Bahamas, the first woman president of the Court of Appeal and the only Bahamian woman to be a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. Her long, dedicated and meritorious service in the judiciary of The Bahamas spans from 1988 to 2010.

Dame Anita was the second woman to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court and the second woman president of the Court of Appeal of The Bahamas.

She spent 21 years in the judiciary beginning in 1996 and ending on her retirement in 2017. As a judge, she was prodigious, known for her sustained capacity for hard work, and for the firm and fair manner in which she presided over her court.

“The work ethic, energy, courage and intellect of these two women, and their insistence on excellence made them exceptional jurists,” it was observed in a release announcing the award.

“They are most deserving of this recognition, and it is indeed fortuitous that their lives are featured in this book for the benefit of future generations of Bahamians, in the hope that it will indeed inspire them, as Justice Rajnauth-Lee said, to live exceptional lives.”

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