AG proposes centralised public appeals system

| 05/01/2022 | 14 Comments
Cayman News Service
Attorney General Samuel Bulgin

(CNS): Attorney General Samuel Bulgin has asked the Law Reform Commission to examine the idea of consolidating the public appeals tribunal system into one body. Instead of several quasi-judicial separate panels dealing with challenges to decisions made by the Central Planning Authority, as well as the immigration, labour and other public authority boards, he has suggested that Cayman looks at following the global trend to consolidate specialist tribunals and create a centralised system.

Public opinion on the proposal is now being sought with the publication of a discussion paper that examines the current local landscape of tribunals, reforms in other jurisdictions and the arguments for and against change.

“It also outlines options for reform and makes recommendations for the establishment of a centralised administrative appeals tribunal in the Cayman Islands,” the LRC said in a recent press release.

There are currently twelve tribunals in the Cayman Islands with the primary function of hearing appeals, another nine tribunals that can broadly be described as first instance tribunals, and three more which are not yet operational. They cover diverse issues from gender equality to land disputes.

However, the commission said that since most of these tribunals are funded and administered by the same ministry responsible for the original decisions, there are “legitimate concerns… regarding the ability of appeals tribunals to operate independently, or at least to appear to operate independently”.

Several years ago a report examining the civil service, produced by local management consultants Ernst and Young (EY) for the government, found that the current tribunal administration in the Cayman Islands was ad hoc, operated in silos, with ministries taking different approaches, and too many cases were backlogged.

The goal of any change is efficiency, lower costs and improved perception of independence. This discussion paper explains that there is a spectrum of consolidation options available that could address the flaws in the current system. Between the abolition of all specialist tribunals, which would be replaced with a single administrative appeals tribunal, to the retention of separate specialist tribunals under a centralised administrative structure, there are myriad roads to reform.

“Somewhere between these two points on the spectrum lies a hybrid model in which specialist tribunals are brought together under one administrative and management structure, with a ‘head of tribunals’ providing oversight to improve the quality of procedures and decision-making,” the LRC stated.

“Although the arguments in favour of consolidation seem persuasive in terms of improved accessibility, independence and efficiency, a number of commentators have argued that such reforms have the potential to backfire and create adverse outcomes,” they added.

The LRC has outlined a number of pros and cons for consolidation and the possible issues that could complicate issues and even make things worse which need to be considered. It is now inviting the public to consider a number of options and approaches to how the current system could be reformed.

See the full discussion paper and the list of existing tribunals in the CNS Library.

Members of the public are asked to submit comment no later than 15 March to the Director of the Law Reform Commission

By hand at
4th Floor Government Administration Building, Portfolio of Legal Affairs
133 Elgin Avenue, George Town, Grand Cayman

Or by mail to:
P.O. Box 136, Grand Cayman KY1-900

Or email

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Category: Government Administration, Politics

Comments (14)

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  1. One possible fix is that the UK Bar and some other professional bodies run courses for people of 10 years+ call who wish to move professionally towards judicial and quasi-judicial roles. Perhaps that type of training ought to be mandatory.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sir. Where is the Family Court proposed over a decade ago??
    Is the divorce law reform completed now??

  3. Anonymous says:

    The problem with decision-making tribunals (including appeal tribunals) is that they are not very good at getting the law right.

    In some instances these tribunals have been applying the incorrectly. That why, where opportunity presents itself, leapfrog into the Grand Court for JR or Constitutional proceedings. It works. Trust me.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If the Board appointments were done based on merit (COMPETENCE, KNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE) … then little work for the Appeals tribunals … we should start there !!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Reform is absolutely required if public perception is to be improved. Sadly, I doubt that this discussion paper is the path towards improved public perception.

    By way of example and with apologies for going into detail, the apparent premise of the Law Reform Commission discussion paper to the effect that our existing appeals tribunals are able as stated in paragraph 1(2) to, ‘examine the entirety of the decision and review it on its merits’, does not reflect our own legislation. By way of example, appeals from questionable decisions of the CPA are restricted by s.46(1) of the Development and Planning Law to 4 types of errors in law. The Planning Appeals Tribunal is forbidden to ‘examine the entirety of the decision’. No amount of tinkering with appellate tribunals will fix the developer bias that blights our country.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is a brilliant idea. We have a few lawyers who are struggling in law firms that could take on this role full time.

    We only need about 5 fully trained lawyers to do this job.

    Mondays they hear Immigration appeals, Tuesdays it is planning appeals, Wednesday labour appeals, Thursday miscellanous appeals and Fridays set aside for writing judgements.

    Any backlog would be cleared in no time.

    I suspect that once these lawyers are trained up they can hears 4 or 5 appeals a day.

    • Anonymous says:

      This should be about public service and not be about finding civil service employment for attorneys who are not making it in the private sector. There is an additional issue in that there are very few attorneys in the most successful law firms, let alone the struggling law firms, that no anything about public law – the branch of law that most of the appeals relate to. One possible fix is that the UK Bar and some other professional bodies run courses for people of 10 years+ call who wish to move professionally towards judicial and quasi-judicial roles. Perhaps that type of training ought to be mandatory.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The principal basis for appeals from decisions of all of the authorities and boards for which an appeals process exists is some sort of error in law rather than decisions contrary to the public interest. If the boards and authorities are going to operate in the public interest going forward then the process for appointing people to these boards and authorities has to change. At the moment too many people are appointed based on nepotism and profiteering. There needs to be an independent vetting process so that competent rather than corrupt people are appointed. Case in point is PACT’s recent appointment of a person convicted of fraud in relation to a public office to yet another public office.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If the proposed new appeal process permits greater accessibility for those who cannot afford the %50,000 or so law firms want as a retainer in order to provide meaning representation then it is to be welcomed. If this new appeals body means that existing authorities and boards are encouraged to act within the law and in the public interest then I for one would absolutely welcome this change.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Centralising the elite’s meddling powers is probably not a great idea, unless you are part of that interference group. Rubber stamp tribunals staffed and funded by the very agencies responsible for initial bad decisions aren’t going to reach any differing conclusion, unless there is risk for those involved. There is very little risk when the supervisory and watchdog offices like Auditor General and Ombudsman, and Commissions like SIPL are not funded or staffed for scope and purpose. There is no public consumer advocacy agency or mechanism at all beyond Google reviews and Tripadvisor! We’ve never had a government willing to claw back a few million in annual budgets and apply it specifically and directly to good governance and business integrity.

    • Anonymous says:

      I sit on one of these tribunals and our current record is approximately 75% of appeals granted – ie deciding against the original government decision

      • Anonymous says:

        Which proves there is a problem at the Board level. I wonder how many have been wronged and didn’t have the wherewithal to appeal?

        • Anonymous says:

          05 @ 2:23 pm – Exactly! PTU Director cost me $50,000 in legal fees for a non-issue which the Board itself reversed.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is the exception and most reflect a very short period of time. For most of the past 20 years or more connected people have been recycled from authority to appeal body and back again every few years in order to secure the special interests supposedly regulated.

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