Understanding the Law
March 8, 2007

Forty years old

Birthdays are momentous occasions and it is with this in mind that we celebrate our justice system. The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Courts (ECSC) celebrated forty years of its existence last week. These are the institutions which administer justice in the member states of Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the territories of Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands. The six states are independent entities while the three territories are still colonies of Britain.{{more}}

The High Court and the Court of Appeal

The West Indies Associated States Supreme Court Order of 1967 brought into being the Eastern Supreme Courts and it became a part of our laws in 1970 by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) Act given in Cap 18 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Under that Act, the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal of the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands were replaced by the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court respectively.

The new Act replaced the Supreme Court Act of 1941. All jurisdictions and the powers and authorities associated which were vested in the former courts were thereby vested in the new courts.

Magistrate Court

It may be noted that the Magistrate courts are outside this arrangement and have come into being as creature of statute. There have been calls for the integration of the magistracy and the present acting Chief Justice, Justice Brian Alleyne has disclosed that the ECSC “will soon embark on a project to integrate the administrative and judicial structures” of the magistracy into the ECSC system.


The headquarters for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court is located in Castries, St. Lucia. It is the base for the Court of Appeal which becomes an itinerant court when it travels to the various member states and territories to listen to appeals.


Perhaps the single most important achievement for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Courts is the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 2000 to govern procedures in the Civil Courts. The Rules were deemed to have come into effect on 31st December, 2000 but were actually applied in July, 2001. CPR 2000 replaced the Rules of the Supreme Court (Revision) 1970.

For many years persons had complained about the time that the Court took to bring matters to final completion and indeed there were matters that languished in the court system for a very long time. Attention was also called to the serious backlog that plagued the court and the need for innovations. Around 1999 a concerted effort was made to deal with the back log. The efforts were helped with the computerization of all civil cases from 1980.

The new Civil Procedure Rules brought not only new words like claim and claimant, in place of writ and plaintiff, but it set the stage for improvements in the court system. Each case introduced by way of a claim is given a specific time table and those who refuse to comply must suffer the sanctions imposed by law unless relief is sought. Case management is perhaps its greatest achievement as it allows the Master to put the time table in place and make a case trial ready.

As long as the necessary personnel are put in place to carry out the objectives of the new rules the justice system could develop to improve the lives of our people of these islands. May it grow from strength to strength!

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com