EDITORIAL: Open judiciary a must
TRADITION PLAYS a critical role in shaping our judiciary. This in itself is not a bad thing. Those core values that are expected of the judiciary are themselves steeped in tradition: independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence and diligence and implementation.
But we do not live in a static society and as such the judiciary cannot be shielded from change which will redound to the benefit of the entire society.
The judiciary itself must be a change agent, leading the way by becoming more open, which means letting the public know what motivates and informs its positions. Citizens are now much more informed and will have a greater appreciation of the judiciary when they understand its stance on an issue.
That is why, while judicial reticence has long been held sacred, it cannot be used as an excuse for being neither open nor accountable. Not today.
The dictum that judges and magistrates and prosecutors are muzzled, because of tradition, so that courts of law only speak through their judgments, no longer holds true. This comes across as an appearance of aloofness that does not build confidence in a changing society. The judiciary must speak, and eloquently too, even if in academic circles, professional organizations and the media. Speaking to the public must not be viewed by the judiciary as a diminution of its authority but rather as an affirmation of its knowledge, strength and, most importantly, its independence.
It is to no one’s benefit that in 2013 the nature and role of the judiciary and its conventions are still not understood by the majority of people. In the same way that citizens have shown an interest in and an understanding of the other branches of governance – the legislature and the executive – they must put greater focus on the judiciary.
The processes and procedures of the judiciary must not be shrouded in mysticism, vested in robes and, in some instances, symbolic wigs. It must begin with the way members of that sector are appointed. The process needs to be more open and participative to ensure that they are representative of society and public.
The public respects the judiciary for its integrity. It now demands quality service, an issue that should be a major focus over the next two days when the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers meets in Barbados.
The judiciary in the Caribbean must be accountable, effective and efficient while recognizing that it is working in the interest of the people and providing a service. The judiciary is for all the people, ensuring that none is more favoured and none discriminated against. It is bonded to serve.