Court cases filed in Barbados between January 1990 and 2009, could soon face the possibility of being dismissed or discontinued.
Addressing the official opening of the 2012-2013 Legal Year in the High Court this morning, Chief Justice Marston Gibson announced that a new Draft Practice Direction, which would soon be submitted to the Barbados Bar Association for comment, provided for the court to send out notices to litigants and lawyers regarding cases filed during that 19-year period, with a view to eliminating an alarming backlog.
Gibson told the court that once the notices were sent out and there was no response from the litigants or their lawyers so indicated, the matter could be discontinued or dismissed.
“It is planned to send out notices to attorneys and litigants with cases filed between January 1990 and October 2009, the commencement of the Supreme Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, with the possibility that, if no response is forthcoming or if the attorney or litigant so indicates, the matter can be dismissed or discontinued,” disclosed the top judicial officer.
In this way, he added, we plan, as a precursor to implementing IAS, to sift out all those inactive cases still on our files. He recalled that this measure had been started by the former Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons, “but had been ultimately frustrated by the lack of response by litigants”.
“The remedy is the threat of dismissal and the invitation to discontinuance,” he added.
Giving a glimpse of what the court files revealed, Gibson said there were 92 cases from 1990 and 152 from 1991 pending on the court books which had not been shifted by recent activity to the Civil Procedure Rules.
“The hunt for numbers continues,” he pointed out.
The Chief Justice said there were a total of about 3,000 cases pending in the High Court alone, with the spate of litigation between 2007 and 2011 increasing exponentially.
“In each year between 2007 and 2011, in excess of of 2,000 civil cases were filed in the High Court and only in 2010 did the figure dip below 2,000.