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INL Supports Tackling a Culture of Adjournments as part of Judicial Keep-In-Touch (KIT) Forum

On July 29, 2022, INL's Caribbean Anti-Crime Grant, implemented by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), convened its 25th virtual Judicial KIT. The program provided an overview of criminal case management procedures and highlighted experiences with trial readiness from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Trinidad & Tobago, and The Bahamas judiciaries.

Approximately 77 judges, magistrates and attorneys attended the KIT session from 9 countries: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago. Attendees included Chief Justices, Judges, Masters, Magistrates, Attorneys, and Court Administrators. Key speakers were the Hon. Justice Georgis Taylor-Alexander (Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court), Master Trevor Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), and Hon. Senior Justice Bernard Turner (The Bahamas). Judge Gregory Mize (ret.) of the Superior Court District of Columbia served as moderator.

Multiple adjournments can often cause a delay in the resolution of cases, create challenges for scheduling, and disrupt the management of courts. Over time, the failure to dispose of cases in a reasonable time frame can negatively impact the administration of justice, erode public confidence in the legal system, impose a cost burden and potentially lead to community unrest. Trial readiness is intended to be productive to case progression and promote due process for defendants, thus counteracting the consequences of adjournment.

Key areas emphasized in the program were the role of judicial officers in identifying, clarifying, and refining disputed issues, as well as the difference between case management as an ethos in improving the efficiency of the trial process and case management as an event in the stage of a case. In the KIT survey, regarding monthly case adjournments, participants indicated that their courts adjourn over 50% of cases each month. In addition, most participants agreed an effective mechanism to address delay is never permitting an adjournment without setting a firm date for the next hearing.

Overall, the speakers highlighted specific measures and legal frameworks that can be utilized to reduce delays in criminal trials, such as elimination of preliminary hearings, designation of case progression officers, and conducting status conferences to identify issues and to facilitate early case dispositions. Presentations also outlined the role of a Master in resolving procedural matters, reducing adjournments, and moving cases towards trial readiness.

The Hon. Mme. Justice Taylor-Alexander presenting on Different Criminal Trial Processes in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court

Master Trevor Jones presenting on the Partner Master System in the Trinidad & Tobago Judiciary

The Hon. Senior Justice Bernard Turner presenting on Active Case Management in The Bahamas Judiciary

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