CCJ Judge Desiree Bernard’s work to be made available to public soon
September 27, 2013

CCJ Judge Desiree Bernard’s work to be made available to public soon

by Oscar Ramjeet Fri Sep 27, 2013

International presentations, speeches and important court decisions made by outgoing Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) judge Desiree Bernard would be soon made available for the general public.{{more}}

This was disclosed by the Guyanese-born jurist in an exclusive interview from her Port of Spain home. She indicated that she is now in the process of compiling her work for the past 49 years, since she became a legal practitioner, and started to make presentations to organizations and groups.

Justice Bernard has had a very distinguished legal career, with many firsts — the first female judge in Guyana, first female appellate court judge, first female Chief Justice and Chancellor and first female head of the judiciary in the region, as well as the first and, so far, only female to sit on the highest court of the land (CCJ). She also held memberships in various regional and international organisations, having been the founding secretary of the Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA), first president of the Organization of Commonwealth Bar Association (OCCBA), member and chair of the Caribbean Steering Committee for Women’s Affairs. Internationally, she served as both rapporteur and chair of the United Nations on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Association of Women Judges and as vice president of the International Federation of Women lawyers.

“Never in my wildest dream that I would be a judge in the highest court of the land,” Justice Bernard indicated.

She said that her work as a trial judge, appellate court judge, chief justice and chancellor, and a CCJ judge has been very interesting.

“Each aspect was different and telling and I enjoy all,” Justice Bernard said.

Her most difficult time, she said, was when she served as Chief Justice, because of the volume of work, not only as a sitting judge, but in administration to supervise magistrates, judges, as well as preparing schedules.

She added that “my job as a judge of the CCJ is very rewarding — we dealt with varying cases. It was rewarding intellectually, since there were some interesting cases some were brain teasers. She pointed out that since the CCJ is the final court, the judges had to be extremely thorough in their research in compiling their decisions/opinions.

“The CCJ is playing an important role in carving Caribbean jurisprudence and Guyanese lawyers are benefitting from decisions in land cases because of its Roman Dutch Law legal system”.

She pointed out that although only three countries, Guyana, Barbados and Belize, have abolished appeals to the Privy Council and accepted the CCJ as the final court, the judges are still very busy because they determine cases in its original jurisdiction. She is optimistic that other countries will soon come on board and join the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction

The bespectacled jurist is a strong advocate against violence involving women and penned several papers on gender and legal issues such as “The Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms as it affects Women,” “Judicial Activism in promoting the Human Rights of Women and “Confronting Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean.” She would like the governments of the region to be more involved in educating the public about the danger of violence, especially against women.

On her retirement from the CCJ, on March 2, Justice Bernard will take up an appointment with the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) as a member of the Tribunal.