For the first time in Jamaica’s history, women will sit as judges in the Court of Appeal. They are Justices Zaila McCalla and Hazel Harris.
The two were among ten judges sworn in at King’s House this morning (April 10) by the Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Kenneth Hall.
Others appointed were: Justice Horace Marsh, judge of the Appeal Court; Jennifer Straw and Almarie Sinclair Haynes, puisne judges in the Supreme Court; Leighton Pusey, Martin Gayle, Marva Bishop and Christine McDonald as acting puisne judges of the Supreme Court and Audre Lindo, as acting master in the Supreme Court.
The Governor-General, in his congratulations, expressed satisfaction with the number of women appointed noting that, “Jamaican women have continued to demonstrate excellence”.
Stating that the “challenges facing the justice system were many”, he reminded the appointees that their “being called to higher service once again demonstrated confidence in (their) ability and confirmed that (their) performance has been creditable”.
The Governor-General urged the group to “serve with distinction, without fear or favour and without ill will”.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe, said that all the judges had been recommended on the basis of performance and expressed confidence that they would acquit themselves well.
He told them that they had the “confidence of the entire Judicial Services Commission,” stating that no one member of the Commission could reject a recommendation.
“As members of the Judicial Services Commission, we strive for consensus and if it cannot be achieved, then it is the majority that decides. Not even the Chief Justice .can knock anybody’s recommendation to the Governor-General,” he told the appointees adding, “if you hear anything like that going around dismiss it summarily; you had the support of the entire Judicial Services Commission”.
The Chief Justice further expressed concern that the judiciary was not being given the recognition it deserved as the third arm of government.
“We need to remind persons in this country that there are three main arms in government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – and those three arms are equally important,” the Chief Justice said. “I would like to see .the judiciary in this country be given the recognition it deserves. Our role is a very important one; to dispense justice,” he added.
According to Chief Justice Wolfe, unless nationals felt that justice was being properly dispensed, there could be no hope for peace in the country.
“So, those who are in charge, be better advised of giving or recognizing the importance of the judiciary, the third arm of government in the development of the nation,” he stated.
Justice McCalla, who responded on behalf of her peers, pledged to dispense the assigned duties with the required diligence “We give the assurance that we are committed to the cause and that we will serve with the highest integrity in the finest tradition of the judiciary in the pursuit of justice for all,” she stated.