Celebrated and Outstanding Guyanese Jurist, Justice Desiree Bernard passes on

Celebrated and Outstanding Guyanese Jurist, Justice Desiree Bernard passes on

The first woman to become Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary in Guyana and the first Woman Judge on the Caribbean Court of Justice, Desiree Bernard, has died.

She passed away earlier today, according to relatives. The retired Judge recently celebrated her 85th Birthday. She has been living in Trinidad and Tobago in recent years.

Last year, she was presented with an Honorary Doctors of Letters degree from the University of Guyana.

Justice Bernard was considered a trailblazer in the legal field locally and across the Caribbean.

In offering condolences, President Irfaan Ali said she has left an indelible mark on the legal landscape, and it is one that all Guyanese should take pride in.

He said Justice Bernard was a trailblazer for women in the field of law, and her stellar legal career, personal integrity, and her outstanding legacy, will continue to inspire all who seek to serve within the legal system.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Guyana, I extend my deepest condolences to her relatives and the entire legal fraternity. The loss of Justice Bernard is deeply felt, not just within our country but throughout the region”, President Ali said.

Chief Justice of Belize, Guyanese, Justice Louise Blenman, in a statement remembered Justice Bernard as a female trailblazer as a lawyer and judge, both in Guyana and the wider Caribbean.

“Desiree was an exemplar who blazed the trail and established several firsts: First female Judge in Guyana; First female Chief Justice in Guyana. First female Chancellor. First Female Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice. She was a stalwart who contributed greatly to Guyana and our region’s jurisprudence. In addition, she was dignified, kind, honest and compassionate to everyone. She was a wonderful lady. Desiree was deeply admired and respected at home, regionally and internationally by others, including judges”, the Chief Justice of Belize noted.

Chief Justice Blenman said Justice Bernard’s contributions to the region’s jurisprudence was recently quite fittingly recognised by the Caribbean Court of Justice Academy for Law, honouring her as a Pioneering Woman Jurist.

In a statement, Director of Public Prosections, Senior Counsel Shalimar Ali-Hack reflected on the work and encouragement of Justice Bernard over the years.

She said “Despite having an extensive practice in the Civil law before she was appointed as a Puisne Judge she sat in many criminal cases in the High Court in the Assizes as well as in the Court of Appeal and the Caribbean Court of Justice showing her diligence and ability to deal with all aspects of the law. She has set a high standard for all judges who aspire to emulate her especially female judges. She always commented at the admission of a young female lawyer to the bar that more women are now being admitted but they must not just be numbers they must strive to excel at the bar. This was her charge to young female lawyers on their admission”, the DPP recalled.

Justice Desiree Bernard, who is originally from Plaisance, started her legal career in 1964 and retired from the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2014.

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