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Overview of the Caribbean Court of Justice

The Caribbean Court of Justice is the judicial institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Established in 2001, it is based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The CCJ sits at 134 Henry Street in Port of Spain.

The Caribbean Court of Justice has been designed to be more than a court of last resort for Member States of the Caribbean Community. For, in addition to replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the CCJ will be vested with an original jurisdiction in respect of the interpretation and application of the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community. In effect, the Caribbean Court of Justice has two jurisdictions: an original jurisdiction and an appellate jurisdiction:

  • In its original jurisdiction, the CCJ interprets and applies the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (which established the Caribbean Community), and is an international court with compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the interpretation of the treaty.
  • In its appellate jurisdiction, the CCJ hears appeals as the court of last resort in both civil and criminal matters from those member states which have ceased to allow appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC). As of 2011, Barbados, Belize, and Guyana have replaced the JCPC's appellate jurisdiction with that of the CCJ. In July, 2014, Dominica's Parliament approved a bill to make the CCJ the final court of appeal and Dominica acceded to the CCJ in the appellate jurisdiction on 6 March 2015.

By interpreting and applying the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which establishes the CSME, the CCJ will determine in a critical way how the CSME functions.

The Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice was signed by the CARICOM states of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago on 14 February 2001. St Vincent and the Grenadine and Dominica signed on two years later.

Member States signing on to the agreement Establishing the CCJ agree to enforce its decisions in their respective jurisdictions like decisions of their own superior courts.

History of the Caribbean Court of Justice

As early as 1901, Caribbean leaders recognised that the Privy Council may not be the best institution to serve member states. The idea to establish a separate court of appeals for English colonies was first discussed in a 6 March 1901 editorial in the Daily Gleaner.

Regional appellate courts, though short-lived, have operated in the Caribbean over the course of its history. Two important forerunners of the Caribbean Court of Justice are the itinerant West Indian Court of Appeal, established during the colonial period, and the Federal Supreme Court which operated between 1958 and 1962 when the region experimented with federal governance.

In 1970, the Jamaican delegation at the Sixth Heads of Government Conference, which convened in Jamaica, proposed the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Appeal in substitution for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The press release from the event stated: “The Conference discussed the idea for the establishment of a Regional Court of Appeal. A general but not unanimous view was expressed that it was desirable that Commonwealth Caribbean countries should move towards the termination of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.”

In its 1992 report, the West Indian Commission recommended the establishment of a Caribbean Supreme Court to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a Committee considered detached from the Caribbean reality, and a constant reminder of the region's colonial past.

The Commission's recommendation was just one of a number of calls over time from various quarters for a permanent regional court in order to strengthen Caribbean jurisprudence, and promote social and economic stability. Caribbean economic and social integration led to the formation of CARICOM, which was established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas which came into force on 1 August 1973. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community, Including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy entered into force on 1 January 2006.

The Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice entered into force on 23 July 2002. The Caribbean Court of Justice began operations on Saturday, 16 April 2005.

Caribbean Court of Justice Timeline

The timeline identifies important dates in the life od the Caribbean Court of Justice.

6 March 1901: Editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper

1970: At the Sixth Meeting of the Heads of Government conference of Commonwealth Caribbean Countries, the Jamaican delegation tabled a proposal for the establishment of a Regional Court of Appeal

1970 – 1971:Meeting of the Committee of Attorneys-General and issuance of draft report on the Establishment of a Regional Court of Appeal

1972: Report of the Representative Committee of the Organization of the Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations on the Establishment of a Caribbean Court of Appeal In Substitution for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

1989: The Heads of Government agree to the establishment of the Court at the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community

1992: Time for Action Report of the West Indian Commission makes recommendations for the establishment of a Caribbean Supreme Court

1999: Trinidad and Tobago announced its plans to house the CCJ in Port of Spain, and the Heads of Government approved the Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice

14 February 2001: The Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice was signed by the CARICOM states of: Antigua & Barbuda; Barbados; Belize; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; St. Kitts & Nevis; St. Lucia; Suriname; and Trinidad & Tobago.

15 February 2003: Two further states, Dominica and St. Vincent & The Grenadines, signed the agreement, bringing the total number of signatories to 12.

21-22 August 2003: The first meeting of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC)

18 August 2004: The Right Honourable Mr. Justice Michael de la Bastide is sworn in as the first President of the Caribbean Court of Justice

Judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice

There are seven judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) appoints judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The eleven-member Commission is headed by a Court President who serves as Chairman of the Commission. The other members of the commission are appointed by regional legal, educational and public sector institutions.

The President of the Court is appointed by participating Caribbean States on the Commission's recommendation and may only be removed on the Commission's recommendation. Judges may only be removed from office by a tribunal's recommendation.

Article 1X states that the President of the Court holds office "for a non-renewable term of 7 years or until he attains the age of seventy-two years". A judge of the court "shall hold office until he attains the age of seventy-two years" (Article 1X 3).

Justice Country Term of Office

The Rt Hon Mr Justice Charles Michael Dennis BYRON
President
St. Kitts and Nevis 2011 - present

The Hon Mr Justice David HAYTON
Judge
United Kingdom 2005 - present

The Hon Mr Justice Rolston NELSON
Judge
Trinidad and Tobago 2005 - present

The Hon Mr Justice Adrian SAUNDERS
Judge
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2005 - present

The Hon Mr Justice Jacob WIT
Judge
The Netherlands 2005 - present

The Hon Mr Justice Winston Charles ANDERSON
Judge
Jamaica 2010 - present

The Hon Mme Justice Maureen RAJNAUTH-LEE
Judge
Trinidad and Tobago 2014 - present

Past Judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice

Justice Country Term of Office

The Hon. Michael de la BAPTISTE
Former President
Trinidad and Tobago 2004 - 2011

The Hon. Duke POLLARD
Former Judge
Guyana 2005 - 2010

The Hon. Désirée BERNARD
Former Judge

Guyana
2005 - 2014

Related Resources

Access resource Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice
Access resource Judgements and Proceedings of the CCJ
Access resource Speeches by the Judges and Administrators of the CCJ
Sources
http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_Court_of_Justice
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2014/01/24/5-facts-the-caribbean-court-of-justice/
http://www.llrx.com/features/caribbeancourtofjustice.htm
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