The Court System Needs to Be Reformed

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2012

The Court System Needs to be Reformed
By Nelson A. Sanford

Nelson Sanford RSS Staff and Command Course 9/24/2012

The Court System Needs To Be Reformed Nelson A. Sanford

The court is an important aspect of the criminal justice system. It has the power, authority and responsibility to adjudicate legal matters between parties and administer justice in both civil and criminal matters in accordance with the rule of law. The court therefore interprets and applies the law, and through its function should provide peace and stability to society. More and more people are turning to the court for resolution of matters and the court is expected to serve the public fairly and justly. The court system within the OECS and the wider Caribbean has had a myriad of challenges and failures which have raised the issue, especially in the last decade, of the need for court reform. The need for reforms within the court system in the region has been marked by many notable pronouncements from judicial luminaries, policy makers and members of the public as well as many policy efforts to improve efficiency. However, the judicial sector in many countries is inefficient and distrusted (Dakolias and Said, 1999) and there seems to be little success in moving from what can be termed a redundant judiciary to an efficient one. Indeed, there is a burgeoning literature suggesting that the key to success in building democratic states and efficient economies comes from enhancing the rule of law, and that enhancement can proceed through a focus on the courts and the reform of the judiciary (World Bank, 2012).

Any attempt at reform of the court system must essentially take on the dilemma of the delay and backlog of cases with an analysis of the causes and consequence of such delays in the court system. Reform measures also need to address court system reorganization, modernization and the strengthening of its administration, to allow for better case flow management; alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, diversion and specialized courts; training of judges, court personnel, and lawyers, students and civil society; and improved access to justice. Since reforms

RSS Staff and Command Course 2012

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The Court System Needs To Be Reformed Nelson A. Sanford require both cultural and systematic changes (Merryman, Clark and Friedman, 1979) great attention needs to be paid to how they can be tailored to suit the needs of the OECS and the wider Caribbean. The court must restore and appeal to the public confidence and in so doing must look seriously at proposed reform measures.

Feeley (1983) notes that delay is a blanket term covering a host of different problems caused by various factors, all requiring different responses. “Delay is not one problem; it is a variety of problems” (Feeley 1983, p.182). The maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” is accepted among legal minds and society in general. Concerned citizens have come to realize that the administration of justice suffers almost as much from court delay, archaic procedures and mismanagement as it does from inequitable applications of substantive law (Hays, 1979). In a criminal justice review paper by Mays and Taggart in 1986, they noted that delay was a basic fact of life in courts. Today, delay remains the most elusive issue of court reform. Whatever the foundation of delay, a number of costs are assumed to accrue. The most broad-ranging consequence of the failure of courts to resolve cases in a timely manner is that simply, justice is not served when cases are delayed. The most frequently mentioned disservices to justice caused by delay are that: it has tended to diminish the citizen’s willingness and ability to access justice; society is not protected when defendants on bail are free to commit other crimes; deterrence is minimized when punishment is not swift; when a defendant cannot make bail there is increased pressure to plea bargain (Mays and Taggart 1986). In some...
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