On Wednesday 8 July, two Court of Appeal judges, Justices Sir Richard Field and the Hon. Dennis Morrison, which are new appointees, were sworn in by Acting Governor Franz. Manderson.
The newly sworn judges, who began hearing cases this week, are non-resident judges, serving as and when required appointments announced, were by HE the Governor Helen Kilpatrick with the recommendation of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, in January.
In his welcome remarks Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said: “It is with great pleasure and anticipation for all the experience and learning that they will bring to our Court of Appeal, that I welcome Justices Field and Morrison to the jurisdiction. Given their very varied and diverse experiences in the spheres of academia, practice and judging, we are assured that they will enhance the capacity of the Court of Appeal to deal with the many complex and challenging cases even while it sees to the proper development of the law. I hope that they (and whenever possible their wives and extended families) will enjoy their times spent in Cayman,” according to a release from the Cayman Islands Judicial Administration (CIJA).
Noting the background of both judges who posses extensive legal experience in various aspects of the legal profession from criminal to commercial the CIJA stated “Sir Richard brings to his new role nearly 25 years at the Bar in London, 12 years as a High Court Judge in the Queen’s Bench Division, and eight years as a law professor. Sharing a similar background, Justice Morrison currently serves and will continue as a Judge of Appeal in the Jamaican Court of Appeal, a position he has held since 2008, while earlier this year retiring from the Belizean Court of Appeal after 11 years’ service. He practised at the Bar in Jamaica for more than 25 years, prior to which he taught full-time at the Norman Manley Law School.
For Sir Richard, an academic career spanning nearly a decade as a full-time professor of law at three Commonwealth universities at the very start his legal career, brought its benefits; within ten years of being called to the Bar in 1977 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel. Highlights of his career as a barrister include a number of high profile cases, one involving an infamous murder by a Dutch engineer which attracted teams of media from all over the world. Another high profile case involved the 1985 collapse of International Tin Council, formed by individual nation states, and which raised some important questions of law going all the way to the House of Lords.
Since his appointment in January 2002 to the High Court, he has added to this wealth of experience, trying cases involving serious crime (mostly murders) and complex civil matters. He also sat in the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division. When not hearing appeals — many involving murders — he served as judge-in-charge of the Commercial Court in London.
That specialist Commercial Court afforded “considerable experience in hearing difficult and complex commercial cases,” Sir Richard said, as he presided over appeals against the decisions of commercial arbitrators and district and county court judges.
Sir Richard is looking forward to learning in his new environment in Cayman: “No doubt I shall have things to learn, but I am looking forward to doing so” and contributing to the vibrancy of the law. “I have a strong interest in the development of the law,” he said, adding: “I know, too, that Cayman’s status as a major international legal centre gives rise to many interesting and complex commercial disputes.”
Justice Morrison, having taken a similar legal and judicial route to the Bench in Cayman, also brings some special insights. Practising at the busy Dunn Cox Jamaican law firm, many years as head of the Litigation Department, he was responsible for conducting a wide range of litigation, including financial and general practice. His practice also included arbitration matters, including industrial relations, supported by qualification as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
Those more than 25 advocacy years have enabled him as a judge hearing criminal and civil appeals from Jamaica’s Supreme Court and Resident Magistrates’ Courts, he said, “to take a step back to see both sides,” and to apply the law in the quest for a “just result.” In that pursuit he has always been mindful, he said, of how the law impacts the lives of people who come before him. For example, he said, he is only too aware of how adjournments of trial hearings can add to the distress of those who appear before him.
Equally important, perhaps, is a quality that Justice Morrison brings to the Bench and which is hard to miss when you meet and speak with him – a sense of humility.
“I was brought up in a realistic way, and what I mean by that is that neither of my parents encouraged us to think that we were more important than we were,” he reflected. “You are rated in life by your own efforts, not by status; what is important is what you are able to deliver.”
As a result, he says, he considers that his relationships with his peer judges and with the people who appear before him have equal importance. “I try to relate to everyone the same way, with courtesy and with a willingness to understand their perspectives.”
That emphasis on equality became evident when asked about highlights of cases: “Every case has its own importance,” he said, but added that he particularly valued his more than ten years in the multi-cultural Belizean setting as a British enclave in the middle of Spanish influences. At home in his native Jamaica, the intense legal and judicial environment has sharpened his skills and broadened his perspectives.
Now he is looking forward to sitting in Cayman and a different set of experiences, particularly in light of his strong interest in public and administrative law: “It is good to always be trying to learn and understand people and how their legal systems operate – that tells you much about them.”