The Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings has indicated that the shortage of Judges within the Judicial System has resulted in the remaining judges being overworked, as she made a strong case for the swift establishment of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
“We need more judges; we need the Judicial Service Commission to be established ASAP – as soon as possible. We are facing increase case-loads. Judges are now overburdened, they are exhausted, they are nearly worn out and, in some cases, they are burnt out. We have had psychologist coming to do psycho-social therapy but that in itself cannot help. We need to have more persons on board to assist us in carrying out our mandate of providing justice,” the Chancellor (ag) said.
The Chancellor (ag) made the remarks on Tuesday as addressed the ceremony to mark the commencement of the Demerara Assizes.
She said the already limited pool of Judges has been further depleted with the retirement of Justice Franklyn Holder last September, and Justice Brassington Reynolds in November.
Another judge, she noted, is expected to retire soon.
Justice Cummings said the Judiciary is in desperate need of human resources to effectively execute its mandate.
“We do not need the rhetoric. We need the labourers. We need the judges. We have been hearing time again about the JSC soon to be established, we would like to see the implementation and the establishment of the Judicial Service Commission,” she said.
Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George said while the Supreme Court of Guyana it is committed to doing better, it cannot ignore the fact that there is only a small pool of judges.
“We can and must do better, of course we can, of course we must. However, with an extremely heavy case load in particular among other challenges, we are doing the best we can in the circumstances. As an example, on average, a civil judge would oversee a constant docket of about 200 to 400 cases at any one time throughout the year, managing cases for all three counties,” the Chief Justice (ag) explained.
Currently, there are three judges assigned to the Court of Appeal and 11 High Court Judges. However, as stated by the Chancellor, a judge is expected to retire soon.
President of the Guyana Bar Association, Pauline Chase said in order for the Judiciary to give effect to this year’s theme – Serving People, Providing Justice – it is imperative that the institutional structures are supported, sufficient and strong.
“The absence of the full complement of judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal due to the absence of the Judicial Service Commission to appoint judges, severely undermines the administration of justice. We are not about half of statutory complement of judges with the retirement of two more judges since we last met at this forum,” she said.
The Attorney said despite these challenges, the judiciary continues to make laudable strides.
Meanwhile, Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, pointed out that there are 308 cases are listed to be heard during the Criminal Assizes by three judges.
It was explained that one of the three judges will be sitting in the Sexual Offenses Court to hear a total of 134 sexual offences cases. This, she said, clearly is not humanely possible. The 174 cases – 61 cases for the offence of murder, 24 cases for the offence of manslaughter and 79 cases for the offence of attempted murder – will be heard by the two judges.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall said he is painfully aware of the shortage of judges and Government will move to establish the Judicial Service Commission within the first quarter of 2023.
“I want to assure that very, very, very early this year, long before the end of the first quarter of this year, we will have appointed the Judiciary Service Commission and the Public Service Commission – two important constitutional commissions, that will address the inadequacy of human resources that currently plague the judicial institution,” he assured the Judiciary.
The tenure of the previous JSC expired on September 12, 2017.
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