Clarity needed on who runs the court, says DG

| 03/03/2020 | 41 Comments
Cayman News Service
Grand Court Opening 2020

(CNS): Questions about the efficiency of the Cayman Islands court system that were raised in a report by the auditor general were the focus of a Public Accounts Committee hearing Monday, when the deputy governor revealed that, when it comes to the administration, who runs what is not entirely clear. Franz Manderson said that while the chief justice is in charge of the justice system, there are management areas where, constitutionally, the role of civil service managers and the top judge are not well defined, leaving questions about who has the final say.

The deputy governor explained that the Constitution states that the chief justice is responsible for the justice system and the “management of all matters” relating to the delivery of justice. But, he said, the civil service is responsible for the administrative support and this gave rise to questions that he was not sure he could always answer in relation to expenditure.

He told the committee, by way of example, that if the chief justice said he needed six new court rooms but the chief officer there said no, you can only have five due to value for money or issues of efficiency, Manderson said he was not sure “who has the final say” over that type of question. This, he said, was due to the constitutional position versus the civil service’s responsibility for spending public cash wisely.

“It is something we need to have a clear look at,” the deputy governor told PAC, as he answered questions about the many challenges that the courts face.

Creating efficiencies in the court is exceptionally challenging, given the many issues that feed into the criminal justice system. The courts see many different government agencies converge, from the police to community rehabilitation, all of which bring their own administrative problems and inefficiencies.

The courts are also plagued by their own unique problems, such as a chronic lack of local criminal defence attorneys both willing and capable of doing legal aid work and the excessive amount of minor traffic tickets that come to court because the police have not introduced an administrative on-the-spot system for infractions like using a phone while driving, speeding or not wearing a seat belt.

Since the auditor general published her court audit, which focused on the plans for a new courthouse as well as general efficiency and value for public money, PAC has interviewed a number of witnesses. It has become increasingly apparent that there are major gaps in the administration of justice when is come to coordinating all of the different elements that can contribute to the courts running smoothly or going off the rails.

The chief justice has been making the case for a new court for years, given the significant challenges presented by the lack of court space. In 2018 government made the decision to buy the former Scotiabank building, which is next to the existing courthouse and seems to make practical sense. But the PAC was recently told by the procurement office, yet another player in the complex web of public departments involved in the courts, that an outline business case for this project had still not been completed, even though the building had already been purchased.

During this year’s official grand court opening, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie blamed red-tape for the delay on converting the building to provide at least space for the Court of Appeal.

Following the PAC hearings relating to the courthouse project and the overall efficiency of the administrative side of the delivery of justice, which revealed the unique challenges the courts face, PAC Chair Ezzard Miller said that a key part of the committee’s report would be recommendations for the need for clarity on who is ultimately responsible for spending decisions and the need for the creation of a central point where the myriad agencies feeding into the courts are properly coordinated.

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Category: Government Finance, Government oversight, Politics

Comments (41)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Are court searches still manual or are they finally online? Used to spend hours holed up in there back in the days Ms. Ezme ran the court 😉

    • Anonymous says:

      I bet manual

      • Anonymous says:

        It must be rather frustrating for the Chief Justice. I personally can attest that he has been trying for at least the last 15 years to get the administrative side at the courts to get online services organised and implemented. It is tough getting things done, even at that level.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s very difficult for those particular ladies to get their heads around it all, is the absolutely frank truth…

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually its partially online but not all they years are uploaded and there are lots of gaps mainly bc they don’t have capable ppl scanning. the Clerk of Court runs the show at the courts and she pretty much changes how things run on a daily basis. the most inefficient and frustrating legal system i have ever seen. not sure why we have court rules if they are never followed.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So let me get this straight no one knows who runs the courts.
    I am a regular court user and it is chaotic, the staff just do not know what they are doing and the admin staff are actually causing the backlog due to a lack of knowledge.
    I might even go to say they are obstructing justice.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Someone runs the courts? You can’t tell.

  4. Philip says:

    Still not being able to pay a simple traffic ticket on-line in 2020 is a perfect sign that no one is in charge, how hard can it be to set this up?,other government departments are accepting on-line payments so the software is there, unreal.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s real. Until new generation replaces current workforce who only knows how to text on their smart phones, things would remain the same.

  5. Elvis says:

    Imagine? No one knows?

    • Anonymous says:

      Worse, in all these years, the DG hasn’t thought to seek this clarification. A claim needs to be filed against the DG for ineptitude amounting to tens, and perhaps hundreds of millions over the years. Wake up everybody!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was once told by someone high enough up the Grand Court hierarchy to know that they had staff members who were only ever seen at the Christmas party.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The court is a joke and the staff have 0 knowledge and continuously mess up very important civil procedure aspects and the CJ is non-responsive and unreachable. The same mess everything in this Country is in.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The CJ position appears to be one that is unaccountable to the people so the individual in that position should not have the final say on how the people’s money is being spent.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh my goodness, careful you don’t “scandalize the judiciary/courts”….something that I suspect only exists in the West Indies nowadays but I’ve heard Bulgin talk about it.

    • Jotnar says:

      He doesn’t. He has zero say on budget approval. But he gets to get blamed when CIG doesn’t provide the infrastructure, staff, legal aid funding, DPP resources and competence or legal professional regulations that would make the system work effectively. But there are no votes in that. And whisper it quietly – but some people may not even want the criminal side of the court system to work to a first world standard.

      • Anonymous says:

        Every government department and authority would like to get more money so that they can work effectively. Maybe what is actually needed in many instances is a change in leadership and thinking.

  9. Anonymous says:

    So … for just how long has this question remained unanswered?

  10. Anonymous says:

    The legal system seem to be in the same boat with the traffic people. The police needs to be able to implement the ways and means to fine and collect fiees for simple traffic infractions without having to go to court and clog up the system. The government needs to implement along with private sector a well regulated mode of transportation so some of us can leave our personal vehicles at home and use public transport. They also need to limit the number vehicles a family can operate on the roads as well as preventing the import of so many wore out Japanese cars that end up abandoned along the road and at the landfill within a few months. These issues need to be tackled from the bottom and not at the top. We would be amazed how just these few things will positively impact our lives, fixing the court system and the traffic system in one fell swoop. Government also need to get the phone and passport picture taking equipment fixed at the Breakers motor vehicular department so that residents living in the eastern district won’t have to drive into town to renew a driver’s licence.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well well, now I know we have 2 dingbats- the 2 that gave this post a thumbs down. I think the suggestions the poster stated is spot on and is also doable.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to the Cayman Circus, enjoy your conch fritters and Dacqs on the beach!

  12. Cayman Dundee says:

    Kangaroos run it, or so it seems.

  13. Anonymous says:


    the complacency, the corruption, the silence… let’s clean house!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Suzanne Bothwell runs it in her capacity as Court Administrator and does a fine job!

    • Anonymous says:

      11:39 am: fine job indeed. So how do you account for all the reported administrative chaos?

    • Anonymous says:

      11:39 am: so fine that she needs a deputy to get things gone. Usually story. Throw more bodies at the problem.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Leaders, are grand court judges, including CJ allowed to decide legal aid and give an opinion on a case before they go to court? so wrong??? i was told it is still going on?

    • Slacker says:

      Wrong. That task was taken away from him and a new section was created to deal with legal aid (and it was a bad decision).

  16. Anonymous says:

    The only thing that is clear is that we must fire everybody right now who hasn’t thought it their responsibility/job description to resolve these many questions of significant public concern. Doing nothing while collecting public compensation is time theft, and cause for dismissal.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it funny? How this territory manages to function?

    • Anonymous says:

      not that funny….fco had to step in a few years ago because cayman was on the verge of bankruptcy(thank you ppm!)

      • Anonymous says:

        About to happen again. Mac and Alden are fiddling as a pandemic is about to severely burn our tourism based economy. Do we have a sovereign wealth fund or any source of income for the inevitable rainy days ahead? No. Why not? Because CIG has been wasting all our money on crap and protocol. Mac has his own driver even when off duty? Seriously?

  18. JTB says:

    As a regular court user I have always assumed that nobody is running it. The thought that such a level of incompetence and chaos might be achieved by design is just scary.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are so correct! Their policies change regularly but are never communicated to the law firms – it’s way more fun to wait until you’re at the counter to be told! Recently they have stopped allowing parking in front of Kirk House, so even making deliveries to the Court is a huge hassle.

      • Anonymous says:

        Now that you mention it, it is damning that they don’t use the ability to e-mail us which they already have to tell us these things.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe you should stay off the RCIPS radar and lay low. Then you wouldn’t be in court so often.

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