SEEN UP NORTH – Legal minds share ideas
As the chief Administrative judge of the New York State Supreme Court’s civil division in Brooklyn, Barbadian Sylvia Hinds-Radix is among the city’s top judicial officers.
The Brooklyn resident is responsible for the running of dozens of courtrooms and the work of more than 100 judges who settle thousands of civil cases every year in the city’s most populous borough.
She is also the first black woman to occupy that position and, in a sense, is a judge of judges.
So when she received an invitation to attend the biennial conference of the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) in The Bahamas earlier this month, she readily accepted because the sessions gave her an opportunity to exchange ideas on the challenges facing judges, magistrates, registrars, members of tribunals, commissions and judicial or adjudicatory bodies across the Caribbean.
Also attending the conference were Sir Denis Byron, president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ); Justice Adrian Saunders, who sits on the CCJ, and several chief justices, including Barbados’ Marston Gibson.
Barbados was also represented by Justice Peter Williams of the Court of Appeal and Acting Chief Magistrate Debra Holder. The heads of the judiciary of Guyana, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, The Bahamas and Jamaica were also present.
“The conference certainly lived up to expectations,” Hinds-Radix said on her return from Nassau
“It was well organized, expertly managed by the chairman, Justice Christopher Blackman, a senior in The Bahamas, and it enabled all of us to discuss a range of crucial issues, everything from judicial ethics, the use of technology in our courts and the rights of victims of crime, to the challenges judicial officers face when it comes to the appearance of bias in a world which is being increasingly influenced by the social media.
“I believe the courts are there to give people, not simply the rich or the powerful, a chance to be heard and the deliberations in Nassau certainly underscored that fact,” said the graduate of Howard University Law School in Washington.
“People turn to the courts to be heard and even if cases aren’t decided in their favour, they are adjudicated by judges who must be impartial. It’s a fundamental right that I hold dear.”
Although Britain, Canada and Australia were represented at the three-day meeting that began on October 3, the vast majority of the participants were people of colour with considerable influence and vast legal knowledge and experience.
“It was quite fascinating to attend a judicial conference which had such outstanding legal luminaries, almost all of whom were black,” said Hinds-Radix
“It was quite an experience.”
The Barbadian chaired a panel discussion on the role of morality in the adjudication process and the judicial approaches to corruption in public office.
“That session on misfeasance in public office was very informative and interesting,” she said.
“It’s clear that the adjudication of law isn’t simply national but international.”
Justice Blackman, a Supreme Court judge in Belize and Barbados before being appointed to The Bahamas Court of Appeal, said the theme of the meeting was Bringing Justice Closer To The People.
The presentations, he added, zeroed in on “how you make justice more accessible to the average person”.
He described many of the legal papers presented by the jurists and legal experts as “very informative” and “provocative”. That was why the participants would find them “useful” on their return home.
“CAJO has decided to hold its next conference in Barbados in 2013 and we are certainly looking forward to the deliberations there,” added Justice Blackman.
“The presence of so many leading senior judges, administrators and legal experts from across the Caribbean and other parts of the world should prove useful for Barbados’ officers.”
“I am looking forward to being in Barbados in 2013, mainly because of the opportunities it provides to find out what’s happening in the courts in jurisdictions elsewhere.
“Of course, the conference in Barbados would also give me another chance to meet Chief Justice Gibson, Sir Denis of the CCJ, Justice Saunders and others once again. I had previously met Sir Denis in New York and I knew Mr Gibson long before he returned to Barbados from New York. The Chief Justice, an outstanding person, is well qualified for the position and he is going to do well in Barbados.”
The Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers was formed two years ago in Trinidad and Tobago.
The chairman of its management committee is Justice Saunders.
Chief Justice Gibson is a member of the panel.