By Caribbean News Global contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) Dame Janice Pereira announced that the clearance rate of High Court cases in the jurisdiction of St Kitts and Nevis fell below 50 percent in 2018; delivering an address to mark the start of the new-law term.
In her presentation, the chief justice noted the court was entering a new year, a new decade, and a new era for the ECSC significant to keep the ship on-course towards court excellence.
Giving a snapshot of the volume of work that the court deals with on a yearly basis, she disclosed that at the Court of Appeal, there were 513 appeals filed in 2018, a 14.22 percent increase over 2017.
“In 2018, a total of 1,228 appeal matters were heard via full-court sittings, chamber hearings, and video/teleconferences. The Court of Appeal delivered 56 written judgments and 686 oral decisions, making a total of 742 decisions delivered by the Court of Appeal in 2018. Oral decisions accounted for 92 percent of total decisions by the court,” she reported. This, she added is undeniably a mammoth effort as the complement of judges on the Court of Appeal currently stands at only six.
“Out of necessity, we often engage acting judges just to enable sufficiency of panels to hear appeals, particularly in jurisdictions such as the territory of the Virgin Islands, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda,” the chief justice said.
At the high court level throughout the court’s jurisdiction, chief justice Pereira said that a total of 6,791 cases were filed in 2018 and 4,133 matters were disposed of, marking a clearance rate of 60.86 percent, a seven percent dip from 2017.
“Saint Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda remain the busiest jurisdictions in terms of cases filed with each having over 1,000 cases filed. In Saint Lucia, there were over 1,500. The clearance rates of the various high courts were mostly below 100 percent in 2018 indicating an accumulation of case backlog,” she said.
The chief justice reported that in 2018, only Antigua and Barbuda achieved a clearance rate above 100 percent, indicating a reduction in the case backlog.
“In that same year, the clearance rates in some of the high courts were below 50 percent (Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Commonwealth of Dominica). The Commonwealth of Dominica, in particular, recorded the lowest overall clearance rate of 22.45 percent – subsequently affected by hurricanes in 2017, which in turn negatively affected court sittings and consequently the disposal of cases into 2018,” said chief justice Pereira.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear 15 cases in St Kitts and Nevis from February 10 – 14, at the Sir Lee Llewellyn Moore Judicial and Legal Services Complex in Basseterre.
According to the Saint Lucia-based Court of Appeal Registry, judges of the Court of Appeal will hear eight applications; five high court civil appeal cases, including one from the Antigua and Barbuda circuit to be heard over a two day period, and two magisterial civil appeal matters.
The court is scheduled to deliver judgment in the Montserrat matter – David Brandt v the Commissioner of Police.