Delays in writing decisions can lead to termination – AG reminds judges

Attorney General & Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, S.C.

Local Judges have been put on notice that they need to comply with the law when it comes to the timely issuance of written judgements. Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has said that no one in Guyana, even the Judiciary, is above the law.

Time limits for judges to issue written decisions are laid out in the Time Limit for Judicial Decisions Act (2009), while Article 197 (3) of Guyana’s Constitution states, “A Judge may be removed from office…for persistently not writing decisions or for continuously failing to give decisions and reasons therefor within such time as may be specified by Parliament.”

With complaints having been lodged by the Bar Association of Barbados against judges in that country, Nandlall has noted that Guyana has a chronic issue of its own with judicial delays, and he noted it is high time that judges adhered to the law and issue their written judgements in a timely manner.

“Now, delay has been a chronic problem in Guyana as well. Guyanese from all walks of life are complaining against the sloth at which the legal and judicial system works. As a politician, I walk one end of this country to another, and whichever community I go, I meet with persons who raise with me their case or cases that are pending in the system here in Guyana, (complaining) that the matters are not being heard and determined quickly.

Specifically, allegations have been and are being made that the judges are not writing their decisions in time,” the Attorney General has said.

Although acknowledging that Guyana has been facing a shortage of judges simultaneously with the delayed judgements, the Attorney General has emphasised that compliance must still be ensured, since there is a law on the books almost 15 years old.

“Barbados has it in its constitution, but we have a legislation that mandates judges to write decisions after hearing submissions and arguments in a case within a prescribed time. That prescribed time is four months, or 120 days; or let’s even say six months,” Nandlall has said.

“This law, The Time Limit for Judicial Decisions Act, has been passed nearly 15 years now, and it is not being complied with. Now, I know there have been shortages of judges and there have been many reasons and issues affecting the Judiciary; but there is a law, and this law must be complied with. Every other person in the country is expected to comply with the laws of this land,” Nandlall has said.

Nandlall emphasized that no agency is above the law, an essential ingredient of the rule of law. He noted that Guyana’s Constitution provides for a judge to be removed from office for not writing decisions in a timely manner.

“No agency is above the law. That is the essence of what we call the rule of law. In Guyana also, like Barbados, our constitution provides that a judge can be removed from office for not writing decisions in a timely manner,” he explained.

“Parliament has passed a law prescribing the time within which decisions must be written by judicial officers. That law is not being complied with. Like Barbados, Guyana has a bar association. We are going to have more judges appointed, and there will be an expectation that the law in relation to (timely) writing of decisions will be obeyed,” the AG said.

Efforts have already begun in earnest to fill judicial vacancies in Guyana, with interviews for vacant positions in the Judiciary and Magistracy being done by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which was appointed last year.

The JSC had released job postings for the open positions at the end of last year. It is the constitutional body tasked with managing matters pertaining to the appointment, discipline, removal, and promotion of judicial officers. The Chancellor sits as Chairman of the Commission.

Reports had stated in January that an additional advertisement would be made for Appeal Court Judges, of which there are now just three in office, despite the law providing for nine. Given the small number of judicial officers and the growing workload, there had been rising calls for the JSC to be established prior to its official appointment.

Last month, nine new magistrates were appointed by the JSC. Among these new appointees were State Counsel in the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Tuanna Hardy, Teriq Mohammed, and Abigail Gibbs. The other six appointees were: Attorneys-at-Law Tamieka Clarke, Orinthia Schmidt, Shivani Lalaram, Michelle Matthias, Omadatt Chandan and Ravindra Mohabir.