The Barbados Bar Association (BBA) has responded with optimism at the recent appointment of ten new judges which is expected to go a long way in reducing the country’s huge judicial backlog.
But President of the association Rosalind Smith-Millar has also zeroed in on urgent legislative changes needed to streamline the Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee in the interest of access to justice for citizens who have grievances with their lawyers.
On the day observed as the start of the legal year, Smith-Millar told Barbados TODAY the association would continue to closely monitor the situation at the court and the impact of ten new judges on the number of outstanding cases languishing in the judicial system.
“We are extremely pleased that we have more judges on board to deal with the backlog as well as being able to spread the load perhaps a bit better now that they are more of them and bring court matters to a faster conclusion. That’s really our outlook on it. We hope that we can work with them,” Millar said.
She also lauded increased transparency from authorities in the judge selection process, which is constitutionally assigned to the Prime Minister and praised authorities for bringing certain functions of the judicial system into the 21st century.
“We are very happy that we have moved to a more transparent system of selecting judges in terms of having a selection committee to make recommendations, do the interviews and so on. For us that’s an improvement over the previous method,” Miller said.
“You have more lawyers and more lawyers file more cases. So when you leave the infrastructure the same and increase the number of cases, there is going to be a backlog. Could the judges have done better? Maybe, but I’m glad that they’re more of them and time will tell if that makes a huge difference as we hope it will.”
Turning her attention to matters surrounding the legal profession and its disciplinary structures that have been “hanging over from previous years”, the BBA president said these issues are reportedly dependent on Government’s decisiveness in amending the Barbados Bar Association Act, which governs the disciplinary committee.
“If you have the same number of people on a committee like that which you had 40 or 50 years ago when they were half the number of lawyers than what we have now, you can’t expect them to operate with the same efficiency,” she argued.
“The [disciplinary] committee carries out a quasi-judicial function, so if there are no reporters to provide transcripts and so on, then how fast can they work when they have to depend on somebody’s long-hand taking of notes?” she asked.
“It’s a very serious matter and you can’t just rush through matters based on memory,” Smith-Millar noted. “We need the proper infrastructure for the committee to function. The committee is now bigger than it was 40 or 50 years ago, but there are a lot more lawyers and so potentially more complaints, some of which may be frivolous but still must be reviewed in all seriousness and some of which are very serious… But we can’t change that on our own. Parliament has to make the changes.” [email protected]