New Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla, has vowed to work with her colleagues in the private and public bar to address problems besetting the courts and to advance the administration of justice.
“I pledge to work with my colleagues to advance any cause if it is just,” she stated, in a speech shortly after she was sworn into office yesterday (June 26) by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m. and surrounded by members of the judiciary, state officials, family and well-wishers, Justice McCalla was invited to take the Oath of Allegiance and the Judicial Oath. She was then presented with the instrument of appointment, and simultaneously conferred with the Order of Jamaica.
Justice McCalla, who is the nation’s first female Chief Justice, promised to serve Jamaicans with all her talent, strength and zeal. “I will do so in accordance of the oath I have taken without fear or favour, without distinction of race, colour, creed or social status,” she declared.
She further enunciated her commitment to justice reform, adding that she is ready to assist any changes that can be made without legislative intervention.
“We must move speedily into the implementation stage of the reform process as soon as recommendations are approved, and put to rest the expectation and predictions of naysayers that like previous reports, the 2007 National Task Force report (on justice reform) will be shelved,” she noted.
She further challenged all stakeholders in the justice system “to come together to let us work to reform the system. The cry is justice for all but let us accept the responsibility of all for justice. We as Jamaicans must realize we have a responsibility to play our part – jurors must heed the call to serve; witnesses must heed the call to come forward; attorneys-at-law at the private and public bar must play their part to ensure that cases are disposed of expeditiously.”
She however pointed out that for the reform process to be effective, the National Task Force recommendations must be heeded.
“The National Task Force has sounded the warning that without substantial infusion of new resources – facilities, equipment and personnel – reform is impossible. It is in the national interest that our judicial system be accorded the level of support that is necessary to enable it to be of the highest standard. This will inure to the benefit of the man of the street, the family, commercial entities (local and foreign), as well as relationships with governments,” she pointed out.
In her remarks, Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, lauded the Chief Justice as an “outstanding jurist, with a long and distinguished record for service” and challenged her to “preside over a system that will enable Jamaicans to experience equality, justice and peace.”
“Madam Chief Justice, I hope that under your leadership, you will be inspired by the prophet Isaiah to let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” Mrs. Simpson urged.
Justice McCalla, who takes up her new position today (June 27) replaces Justice Lensley Wolfe, who is going into retirement. Having served in the Jamaican judiciary for the last 31 years, she is the first graduate of the Norman Manley Law School to hold the office, and the seventh Chief Justice of Jamaica since Independence.