Created on 25 March 2017 Hits: 423 Written by Romain Pitt Category: POLITICS


Judges cannot make decisions arbitrarily, as they are not only required to follow the law, but must provide a legal reason or reasons for every decision they make; failing which, the decision will be, on its face, null and void.


Judicial decisions are made on the basis of relevant evidence properly brought before the court, to which the governing law is applied. Judges are not like parents or bosses whose decision making power emanates solely from their status. What is more, judges operate within a very critical legal community (both domestic and foreign), which gives them enormous incentive to be recognized for the quality of their decisions.

In other words, for their own reputation, they have a compelling motivation to "get it right."

Finally, decisions of trial judges are, with few exceptions, subject to review by a panel of at least 3 judges of higher jurisdiction. It is at this point the CCJ enters the picture. It is a court of appeal of at least 3 judges, often though not always "the best and the brightest." With the aid of law clerks, perhaps even more consistently "the brightest," and other research aids, those appeal judges are required to determine whether the trial judge properly applied the law to the facts presented at trial. They do not ordinarily hear evidence.

The arguments presented to them are of a purely legal nature. The record of what has transpired in the trial court is brought before them so that they can determine whether the trial judge "got it right," legally.

The existence of appeal court judges is one of the reasons trial judges are keen to be right legally in their decisions, and the appeal judges of the CCJ will want nothing better than a reputation for scholarship. They know that their important judgments will be read widely, not only throughout the Caribbean, but certainly in most commonwealth countries.

The risk that judges of the CCJ will be influenced by external forces is no greater than in the case of law lords, although the external forces may be different.

Romain Pitt Retired superior court Judge and 2015 Alumni of Influence ,University College, University of Toronto.

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