Conflict over new court

| 19/01/2010

(CNS):  With case loads doubling in the last ten years, the chief justice has said that there is a very real need for the new court house building. Plans to develop a new home for the Cayman judiciary were shelved by the previous administration when the recession began to bite, but Anthony Smellie is now urging government to fulfil the commitment to build it as soon as possible. However, the premier has said that when the current court house was built there were only 35 lawyers here, and now, when there are close to 400, government does not have the money and wants to see the legal fraternity make a bigger contribution.

While Chief Justice Smellie spelt out the pressing need for the building to help the judiciary cope with the increasing pressure to resolve the growing cases coming before the courts as quickly as possible, the premier has a different view. McKeeva Bush has said that with so many lawyers on island that have acquired considerable wealth from working in this jurisdiction, it is ironic that the profession is pressing government to provide them with a new court house when they are so reluctant to give back to the Cayman Islands community, in particular with regard to legal aid.

“Legal entities have grown and prospered since we built the first court house,” Bush said in his speech on Friday to the new governor, adding that he was bound to hear about the legal aid debate. The premier told the audience in the Legislative Assembly that he believed the lawyers must become more involved in the financing of justice. “Why now with nearly 400 lawyers do we have a system where we can’t afford to build a court house, when lawyers are retiring early having made hundreds of thousands of dollars?”he asked.

However, the chief justice noted that the lack of space could have a detrimental impact on the commercial side of Cayman’s legal system, which is a major pillar in the jurisdiction’s offshore sector and economic fortunes. Although judicial services has now created a dedicated court for the financial industry and introduced new judges (including Sir Peter Cresswell) to serve in that division, space was still a major problem.

“The new building is very badly needed,” Smellie said during his speech at the Grand Court opening. “There is simply no room for the expansion that is required to meet the demands of the massive increases in the case load.”

The current building was constructed in 1972 and he said there was no meaningful comparison to case loads then to those coming through the courts today. “There are not even available statistics going that far back as there may have appeared no need to keep them,” Smellie observed, adding that a comparison with the situation just a decade ago in the Summary Court made the point in that cases had more than doubled in the last ten years. He also noted that legal and judicial services had not grown excessively when compared to the rest of the civil service.

“This kind of massive increase in case volume was bound to translate into the need for more court rooms, judicial and support staff for dealing with them,” the senior judge added.  “But, to keep matters in perspective, these increasing demands of the courts may well be entirely proportionate to the increasing demands of the other arms of government, even though it seems they are the last to be addressed.”

The CJ reported that 88 cases were disposed of last year in the Grand Court but another 62 were carried over and of those 16 date back to 2008 and one to 2007. “What this means is that a significant number of cases were not resolved within the benchmark period of 12 months which has been maintained in the Grand Court for the past several years,” Smellie lamented. “Without any immediate prospect of dealing with this problem simply by way of case management, I must once more emphasise the need for more space if the courts are going to continue to be able to ensure a timely trial for people charged with criminal offences.” 

He observed that many cases come up to the Grand Court because defendants elect to bring them up, although they could, quite appropriately, be dealt with in the Summary Court. “This is a matter that can only be addressed by legislative change and about which I have already communicated with the attorney general,” he said.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin backed the CJ’s call and noted that the only reason why the judiciary was managing to keep up with the mounting case load was because of the relentless hard work of lawyers and court staff. He said everyone had hoped that the rolling out of the Commercial Division would have coincided with the availability of additional accommodation. However, despite the delay, the court has sat in at least four divisions in recent weeks.

“This has been achieved by means of singular fortitude on the part of judges and court staff,” Bulgin noted. “Chambers have had to be used as open courts and vice versa. Judges have had to be using the library as chambers and in one instance, counsels’ common room was used as chambers. While financial constraints have delayed the building of new court facilities, the need cannot be overstated and it is hoped that plans, which have gone some far way, will be given new life as financial constraints lessen.”

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  1. Incognito says:

    Its very easy for everyone to say how people should be delt with in the court for "simple" cases.

    However, I bet your song and dance would change if you so happened to be on the recieving end of the law when they "hurry" your case, and pronounce you guilty before you can defend yourself. It is your right to have a fair and impartial court system.

    In my opinion, it is easy for all of us to throw stones at this issue, but I wonder how many actually KNOW about the processess in the court office, other than speculating with your friends on the porch.

    I believe before we can go out and criticize(as how we Caymanians usually do), we should first educate ourselves  about what and why things happen in the court house the way they do before we start throwing stones.

    Giving  a "solution" to something you have no knowledge about only shows ignorance. Its the usual, shoot them up , and ask questions later mentallity that we have adapted so openly.

    Just my  0.02.

    -A young Caymanian(without a criminal record)

  2. ExBlueGirl says:


    What benefit to the Country will a new Courthouse be??? We NEED:
    As far as new buildings go:
    ·        A new Prison
    ·        A new Jail
    And as far as the legal system:
    ·        A modified Criminal Justice system.
    ·        Changes to some of the Laws
    The system that is adapted to the arrest, court proceeding and conviction of a criminal offender needs to be greatly modified or changed. The system that is in place now is sorely ANTIQUATED and that is what is causing the backlog of Court cases.
    And the way a Police investigation case file is compiled, well….needs improvement.
    It needs to be researched to what systems are working in other countries and what would work here. WHO does that? WHO can and will do that?!
    So many of the simple offences can and should be dealt with then and there. 
    For example: Incidents that are committed ‘within the view’ of Officers, such as Disorderly Conducts, Animal Nuisances, Littering, Breach of the Peace.
    These can be dealt with by a Fixed Penalty Ticket System or having a 24 hour Magistrate to bring the offender before. Commit the offence and be dealt with immediately!
    Why are people being bailed and brought to the Police Station about 10 times and then appear before the Court about another 10 times. People, do you know how much money this cost!!!
    Why are DUI offenders going to Court two years later!!! 
    And if the Defense Attorneys cannot attend with their Summary Court offenders because they suddenly have a case in Grand Court, don’t adjourn for another day, they should be made to have one of their ‘learned brethren’ appear for their case.
    Change the system, simple misdemeanors should be dealt with simply: immediate fines or community service= you want clean up crews, here they are!!
    Speed up the Court cases, stop all the adjournments and create a system to deal with misdemeanor offences quickly.
    And it won’t cost the Country a ton of money.
    • Notorious says:

       Whomever said this I just wanted you to know that your 100% right!  It’s about time someone take notice of what is going on in our Country.  I salute you and I hope that you would consider running for a seat in 2013 because we need more people like you that has common sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        They probably can’t stand for election because the have only lived here for 30 years and don’t understand the culture and heritage.

    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent post. I hope that someone in authority will read and learn.

    • Bobby Anonymous says:

      Have you thought of applying for the AG job? You sound like you know the system.

      But what the heck, I am sure your using that wonderfull gift called common sense. Hello! is anybody out there reading the11:21 post? All we need is more like Exbluegirl and Haines. Job done.

    • Missing an issue says:

      The point is that Cayman desperately needs more court space so that the civil court function is not disrupted excessively by the increasing demands of the criminal justice system given the upturn in local crime.  The financial services sector pays a huge percentage of this nation’s fiscal income and it needs a functioning civil court system.  If the civil courts can’t cope the business world will soon know about it.

      Not doing something about this will cost the country a "ton of money". 

  3. Anonymous says:

    For the person that has criticized the drug court here. Please give me a call at year department of community rehabilitation. 949 1693. Out of our graduates so far no new re offending!! So yes as much as you want to say it isant working for your caymanian offenders. So far it is. Ask for Judye.

    • Bobby Anonymous says:

      You lost me. I never mentioned Caymanian or that the rehab don’t work. I am just puzzled as to why we need a special court to deal with it.

      After all, the end result is the same, aint it? Now if your telling me that you need to be a specialist judge to deal with these cases then fair enough, but that could all be dealt with after "rehab".

      I belive that rehab is a great thing and that everbody involved in the education of drug prevention etc needs a pat on the back. Just because they have not reoffended just means that they have not been caught again. If they are clean, then great.

      Have you tried spell check?

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry about the spelling. I type from my phone and it does its own thing sometime. I would just hope that people would inform themselves more about the specifics of the drug court and would happy to share information about the court and our mission. We as the drug court operate with no dedicated budget so the resources come from what we already have and I believe that we are making a difference in Cayman.

  4. Anonymous says:

    To our Beloved Leader I say,


  5. Anonymous says:

    A functioning Court is vital to all of Cayman’s financial services, not just the lawyers.  The Court is used not by the lawyers but the clients of the lawyers, and everyone benefits.  We do not think that state schools are run for the benefit of teachers.  We do not think that airports are run for the pilots.

    Cayman already has some of the highest costs of Court fees in the world.  The financial service industry is already paying for the criminal courts through these fees.

    Good lawyers make a lot of money everywhere.  If we impinge on their margins then either prices will go up and business will be scared away or the better ones will find more lucrative work elsewhere.  We cannot afford to weaken one of the great strengths of Cayman which is the quality of legal professional available.

  6. NOFavours says:

    what does the PRIVATE LEGAL SECTOR have to do with the Judicial arm of the government? In what reality do we see private attorneys footing the bill? Such Garbage!

    Last time I checked, this was a capitalist society- further- I findit IRONIC that BIG MAC has the audacity to lament on the sums of money that attorneys earn while his pocket is fat and he is living high on the hog.

    While MAC is out hiring personal housekeepers to maintain his pantry on the Cayman people’s bill, he is chastising the legal fraternity for how much they make. I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Man must be jealous.

    And what does his yapping achieve? Absolutely nothing. Address the problem Premier and stop embarrassing this country.

    Buffonery at it’s best. I just hope the people of this country aren’t fool enough to buy it.

    • nonsense says:

      "and now, when there are close to 400, government does not have the money and wants to see the legal fraternity make a bigger contribution."


      He just wants someone else to foot the bill. The same thing has been going on for years. First is was – can you contribute to this charity, then host a functon, then pay for sponsorship, then pay for a library, and now an official government building!

      Just ask Dart to build it, as soon as he is done with the berthing facility!


  7. Anonymous says:

    Bad idea.. Just save the money and build a high security but low budget, zero tolerance prison and cut all the luxuries. I am sick of the same "Northward is full" excuse over and over.

  8. Bobby Anonymous says:

    It won’t matter how big a building you get.

    Why not stop waisting time with the good old frase "adjurned for 2 weeks."

    I have heard many people in court plead guilty and asked to be dealt with there and then to get it over with, just to be told come back for senticing.

    What is the point? And the drug court, Hey give me a break! Have you ever been there to watch? why do you need a special court to send you to rehab?

    It’s dead simple. First offence, (a mistake) Second offence (stupid) Third offence (clean 1 mile of road) Fourth offence (clean 3 mile of road). Etc, Etc.

    Obviously it depends on the nature of the crime, but if they say to the court "I DID IT. GUILTY" then deal with it and move on to the next case.

    While i’m on the subject, why not start the court a little earlier and finish a little later with a one hour lunch break.

    Result = Half the Lawyers.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am not a lawyer, none of my close relatives are lawyers, I do not aspire to become a lawyer, and I don’t even have a desire to play one on TV, but where does the Premier get the idea that lawyers should be contributing more?

    “Legal entities have grown and prospered since we built the first court house,” Bush said in his speech on Friday to the new governor, adding that he was bound to hear about the legal aid debate. The premier told the audience in the Legislative Assembly that he believed the lawyers must become more involved in the financing of justice. “Why now with nearly 400 lawyers do we have a system where we can’t afford to build a court house, when lawyers are retiring early having made hundreds of thousands of dollars?” he asked.

    If we assume that just 200 of those lawyers require work permits starting at $12,500, which is the bottom end of the scale, then that amounts to $2.5 million per annum. Fees for the use of the court house have also increased.

    We have to stop looking to other people to pay our expenses, and also stop giving the little that we do receive to friends and cronies (check development bank loans) who are either unable or unwilling to pay the money back because, like garbage fees, there is no consequence for not paying.

    As a people, no matter how poor we are, we cannot use more electricity, water, TV, and phone service than we can afford to pay for. Politicians are paid a handsome salary, but they also get $3000 per month that they do not have to account for just to maintain an "office" of some sort. We all know this money goes to pay utility bills for their supporters and thus we end up in this cycle of poverty for the people while politicians fight tooth and nail for a seat in the house in order to mainain this order.

    Its time we took responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming our problems on ex-pats. Whatever happened to an honest days work for a days wage that every Caymanian over the age of 40 grew up knowing?

    How in the hell did we end up with a Premier that NEEDS a personal chef and a full time driver? If you want to see "needs" then take a look at the people in Haiti.

    OK, that’s my rant for the day.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for one of the most coherent pieces on this site…. Please rant more often……. Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us rant it will get through to someone who can make a difference in the near future, and maybe those of us who get to make a difference every 4 years or so will make sure we get it right next time.

      In case anyone misunderstands, I am Caymanian and I am mad as hell at whatis happening to my county.

  10. Anonymous says:

     Once again the Premier’s brilliance is taking us into uncharted territory.  The lawyers should pay for the courts building.  And, one would assume, the doctors should pay for the hospital building.  And police officers should pay for their buildings as well.

    If you take this odd idea to its absurd extreme, anyone making a living should pay for the structure in which that living is earned.  That should go over well.



  11. Anonymous says:

    88 cases were disposed of last year? Even assuming that’s 88 full trials, it’s hardly an overwhelming docket. Perhaps they are tired from dragging around in those ridiculous robes and wigs.

    • Supporter of getting a bigger Court House!! says:

      further to Anon @9:21 and other negative commentors………Regrettably, that is a very heavy workload for our Grand Court (that is separate from the Summary Court matters who deal with the lesser offences). 

      In years gone by that would have cleared up the entire backlog, but reality is that we are having more capital and serious offences happening everyday.  Every day you hear about another armed robbery, drive by shooting, rape or murder.  All of those types of cases are heard in the Grand Court.  Take for instance this latest murder trial.  That trial went on for 6 weeks, you do the math, if all of them went that long how many would you get done in a year, certainly not 88.  The Grand Court’s volume of work has increased so that it was necessary to increase the amount of criminal trials each week to at least 2 simultaneous trials per week.  If space allowed I am sure that it would certainly be more too!! 

      Each accused person is innocent until proven guilty and therefore deserve their fair day in Court.  If you ever sat in one of these cases (or watched tv for that matter) you would realize that the lawyers of today’s society has a lot of technology to assist with proving or disproving the Crown’s case.  The defence counsels dont sit on their laurels waiting for the crown to prove their case, they are actively seeking each loophole they can find.   No one can truly say that the vast majority of the lawyers do not work for their money.  These are not a parking ticket or something petty like that, these are the worst of the worst that the Grand Court have to deal with.

      Another person mentioned that the court should sit longer hours, well my answer to that is that when it is necessary the Courts sit well past the time that you go home in the afternoon and will even convene on the weekends too if need be. As a past juror I have witnessed that first hand!!

      Instead of criticizing how fast YOU think the justice system is moving, perhaps you can help work towards a solution to all of these high crimes going on our society!!

      God Bless you all!!

      • Anonymous says:

        The murder case lasted six weeks because they knocked off for two weeks in the middle of it.

        Having to do two trials in the same week is a problem? Isn’t that why there is more than on judge?

  12. Anonymous says:

    In his not always very articulate way, Mac is correct in some of his observations. There just has to be something wrong about the way we are doing things in Cayman when there is SO much money around, not just among the lawyers (Check the pages of Mr Legge’s very high end beautifully produced magazine) and yet Government is unable to provide admittedly needed facilities and (at least in some cases) services. Yes, the civil service needs to be cut (and not increased as is happening even now) but there’s more to it than that. The economic model that has served us well enough for a long time is no longer up to the task of sustaining us.

    • Anonymous says:

      I very much agree that the economic model we were relying on no longer fits — our economic model was to spend, spend, spend — government had deep pockets.

      No longer so — and that dramatic change may become a rather permanent state of affairs — we need to get used to it and change with it.

      And I entirely agree that the lawyers really need to begin thinking about how they can be more of a part of the solution.  Cayman has been good to them, now it may be time to give back.

      However, I would, if I may, give a word of advice to Mac: change your tactics.  Stop the blame game and the knee jerk reaction.

      Go talk to the lawyers, bring them into the fold.  Excluding them from the Legal Aid Committee — not a good idea.  Heard the saying keep your friend close and your enemies closer (no to imply that level of hostility — just making a point)?

      Use the personal approach.  That is the best form of communication.

      Show yourself to respect the separation of powers, the importance of respecting the tenets of democracy, and the power of transparency in all you do.

      Otherwise, you worry people — and in addition to not getting the support you could, you can drive business away.

      Just my two cents….

      • nonsense says:

        Do you live in a Capitalist society or Socialist?

        Here is the deal — people come here to do a job and enjoy their free time with the knowledge they will have nice warm weather. They give up the friends and family, culture, amusement/entertainment for the those same things here but it is not an equal trade.

        Add in the cost of the taxes (I mean duty), the cost of electricity, the cost of milk/bread/eggs/etc — it doesn’t make it worthwhile to work here if you don’t have any money left over for the week-end.

        Just moved here and need a place to live. Some people can afford to pay the stamp TAX on a home and not worry about selling it in time to pay for their next house (on the market for a year). 7 year roll over makes it hard to make a profit on property with that StampTax. That isa personal economic decision.

        Now you got emigrants that want to integrate and they feel unwelcome. Why care about the community when they don’t want you plus you’ll have to leave in 7 years anyway. Should they donate $ to anything beyond what will effect them?

        All things being said — who has time to donate or support Caymanians that clearly don’t care about anyone but themselves?

        • Anonymous says:

          To Tues 19 – 20:32:   Seven (7) years staying in another country is quite a long time!  If, as you say – " who has time to support Caymanians that clearly don’t care about anyone but themselves"  if that’s your attitude just leave and give some other decent human being the space to live here!!  Apparently you are not enjoying it  so why stay?? 

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes – but with all the money paid to Government if it ran with anything like the efficiency of the private sector, it already has more than enough money to do everything AND provide the people with a refund.


      Cost of classroom at Cayman Prep $125.00 square foot

      Cost of classroom at John Gray $250.00 square foot.

      Cost of educating child at Cayman Prep $7,500/year

      Cost of educating child at John Gray $15,000/year

      Quality of education at Cayman Prep  – A-

      Quality of education at John Gray   –  F   


      Anyoneelse see the problem is not the amount of money but what is done with it!

      • Anonymous says:

        You have a point, but it cannot be packaged as neatly as you have put it. Prep can pick and choose who to accept, or to a certain extent that is already decided by the parent’s income. The most important part of a child’s education is not what they are exposed to in the school, but the encouragement and support that they come home to.

        I have a child who attended George Hick and John Gray and left better educated than any child from Prep that same year. That is by subjects passed in external exams, SAT score, acceptance at Tier 1 university, or any other measure you wish to choose.

        This was seven years ago mind you, but kids at John Gray were divided into "sets" with the high flyers in Set 1 and kids who could barely read in Set 7. The high flyers were pushed to the limit, and the Set sevens were pushed up a grade each year until they received a graduation paper that they were most likely unable to read.

        Obviously there was a serious problem somewhere in the system long before a teacher is faced with what to do with fourteen-year-old child that cannot read. This is the problem that we have to deal with as a country, and parents who think the ability to purchase their kids a nintendo game is more important than sitting down and going over their homework with them.

        If Cayman Prep thinks that they can educate some of those Set 6 and 7 students for $10,000 per year I would be happy to see the Government vote the money over to Prep to expand their school.

        • Anonymous says:

          Excellent post 16:11. You are spot on with all your observations.