…as Full Court pays tribute to late Chancellor
Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature convened a special sitting of the Full Court on Wednesday in remembrance of their late colleague, former Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Cecil Kennard, O.R., C.C.H., who died on March 12 at age 86.
Apart from judicial officers, Justice Kennard’s widow, son, and members of the Bar attended the special sitting, which was held at the Court of Appeal in Kingston.
Opening the tributes was Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, who spoke of Justice Kennard’s elaborate and comprehensive judgements, which to this very day, he noted, are being used as precedents in the region.
Without a doubt, he said, Justice Kennard has left an “indelible print” on the fabric of Guyana and the Caribbean’s jurisprudence, while adding that his passing is a great loss to Guyana, especially to the legal fraternity, which he helped to shape.
Nandlall said Justice Kennard was a man of “humility, simplicity, and compassion”, adding that these qualities enabled him to connect with the ordinary man.
“His writing was not of the style of prose, picturesque expression, or linguistic flair and flamboyance. It was one of crystalline clarity, simplicity, and fluent coherence that rendered his legal reasoning easily discernible,” said the Attorney General as he reflected on Justice Kennard’s many scholarly judgements.
Eminent and distinguished
The late retired Judge was remembered by Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC, as an eminent and distinguished son of the soil, and a legal luminary who had a long and illustrious judicial career spanning over 25 prolific years.
She fondly shared that Justice Kennard, who served with distinction, had always put service to his country above himself, and had dedicated his life to the jurisprudence of Guyana. “He carved his niche, and made an indelible mark on this earth. Throughout his career, and in all that he engaged in professionally, especially in horseracing and cricket, [he] conducted himself with decorum and integrity.”
The Chief Justice recalled that Kennard was appointed a puisne Judge in November 1977, and was further elevated to the Court of Appeal in June 1985. Justice Kennard was appointed Chief Justice in January 1995, and Chancellor of the Judiciary in 1996. He held the latter position until his retirement in 2002, after which he was appointed Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority in 2017.
“Chancellor Kennard revolutionised the approach of the authority, making it more people-centred by the many outreaches he conducted in rural and interior communities. As a prosecutor, it was my privilege to appear before him in the High Court and the Court of Appeal,” said the Chief Justice.
Justice George added that Justice Kennard’s name has been etched in the annals of the country’s legal history through the many landmark cases he presided over, which have led to the development of jurisprudence, especially in criminal law.
According to her, his industry in the Full Court should serve as an inspiration to all who preside at the High Court. As Justice of appeal, she recalled, he published numerous decisions, many of which are reported in the West Indian Law Reports.
While his interest was in criminal law, Justice George said, the late former Chancellor had dealt with rather interesting points of law in the civil jurisdiction.
In regard to criminal law, she said, his reported decisions exemplified the range of legal issues he addressed, including the right to retain counsel for a trial, admissibility of confession statements, identification, res gestae as an exception to the hearsay rule, assessment of opinion evidence, extradition, and the thorny issue of joint enterprise and the liability of secondary parties.
She particularly highlighted Justice Kennard’s decision in Dorset and Somerset vs the State — a decision which she noted epitomised Justice Kennard as the Judge who always espoused the importance of fairness.
“This decision was Dorset and Somerset vs the State, where a witness gave evidence in court which was inconsistent with their written statement to the Police. No doubt, drawing on his experience as a prosecutor and the duty embedded to persons holding this office, he held that ‘the prosecutor ought to have brought the existence of the inconsistent written statement to the attention of the court and to the defence, so that the witness’s credibility could have been tested’.”
The Chief Justice remarked that there is much to emulate from Justice Kennard’s manner of engagement with his colleagues, counsel, and litigants. She described him as a “master teacher of the law”, who was always willing to share his knowledge and expertise.
In closing, she said that he has left an indelible mark on the legal landscape of Guyana, the Caribbean, and the Commonwealth with his sharp intellect and warm and affable personality.
Legendary son of the soil
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, also spoke. She described Justice Kennard as a “legendary son of the soil”. She said she believes that his love for criminal law started during his tenure as Crown Counsel at the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“So extensive was his practice in that field that he moved up the ranks quickly to various positions, such as Senior Crown Counsel, Senior State Counsel, Assistant DPP, Deputy DPP,” she said as she reflected on his remarkable record of service.
According to the head of the Judiciary, Justice Kennard served as DPP in Antigua and Barbuda, where he successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile cases.
As a State Counsel at the DPP Chambers, Justice Cummings-Edwards reminisced, many times she appeared before Justice Kennard in the Supreme Court.
“I recall seeing his anxiety in ensuring that justice is done in all the cases. The aphorism that justice must not only be done but must manifestly appear to be done was infused in all court proceedings and decisions in which he attended.”
She expressed that it was a joy and learning experience to appear before Justice Kennard, whom she noted had an intolerance for mediocrity.
“His rulings, directions, and decisions were without frills. They were clear, they were concise, and they were to the point…,” Justice Cummings-Edwards said, adding that he played an integral part in her ascension to the Bench.
Moreover, the Chancellor added that Justice Kennard is credited with having the Court of Appeal sit in the county of Berbice as an itinerant court to hear and determine appeals from both civil and criminal cases.
She also said he is credited with having sittings of the Magistrate’s Court in Kwakwani, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), which alleviated the hardship of residents having to travel many miles by land and sea to the New Amsterdam Magistrate’s Court, which was the district court for Kwakwani.
In extending condolences to Justice Kennard’s family and friends, she told them that their loved one is in a better place, discussing the law, and that his rich legacy would always remain in their hearts, the courts of Guyana, and the wider Caribbean.
Also delivering remarks at the ceremonial sitting were the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC; Senior Counsel Edward Luckhoo, and Senior Counsel K.A. Juman-Yassin.