Chief Justice Gibson admits no progress on court backlog

Barbados Chief Justice Marston Gibson

Still over 3,000 case backlog. Justice system collapsing.

Some cases finished, waiting 19 years for judgment!

Almost a year ago Barbados Chief Justice Marston Gibson warned that a massive backlog, missing case files and deliberate delaying tactics by unscrupulous profiteering lawyers were threatening the very foundations of our justice system.

Gibson blew away the pretences of the previous Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons – whose failed and putrid legacy as Attorney General and Chief Justice is exposed more and more with each new revelation.

If the system took on no new cases, it would take 18 years at the present rate of case completion to clear the backlog… but there are 1500 – 2000 new cases per year!

“So here we are almost a year later and Chief Justice Gibson reveals that the courts are still clogged with over 3,000 cases on backlog. Not a lick of progress in a year.”

Enquiring minds ask ‘How many new courts and new judges were added in the past year?’

But we know the answer: none.

Doesn’t the government get it? This is the very foundation of our country and of our offshore banking industry. If foreign money can’t depend upon our courts to be just and timely, it’s all over!

Chief Justice Marston Gibson could make it happen if he was given the budget… but the money is gone – long ago spent on cricket parties, celebrations and council handouts.

Oh well… the law, the courts and justice were never high on the agenda for either the BLP or the DLP governments.

If you need justice folks, don’t even think about the courts. Do what you can on your own.

And lest you think that’s bad advice, it’s the same you’ll receive from the Chief Justice, who tells Barbados “alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be the only solution to this long-standing judicial ailment”

Alternative dispute resolution… otherwise known as private courts.

Further Reading

Please read the Nation article online here, but we have to print it all because the Bajan media sometimes removes articles to change history according to revised agendas…

It’s a must!

WITH a backlog of over 3 000 court cases, Chief Justice Marston Gibson believes that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be the only solution to this long-standing judicial ailment.

Delivering the feature address at the Barbados Workers’ Union 71st Annual Delegates Conference at Solidarity House yesterday, the Chief Justice stated that ADR was not a luxury but a necessity for the judicial system. He explained that ADR comprised a number of alternative dispute resolution modalities, including mediation and arbitration.

“It is a matter of survival for our system,” he stated.

Providing statistics of cases before the courts, he said there were between 1 700 and 2 000 new cases filed in the courts annually. In addition, there were 362 which were still undecided, some dating back to as far as 1993, and over 3 000 cases in the backlog.


Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law

21 responses to “Chief Justice Gibson admits no progress on court backlog

  1. RLL

    What exactly has Chief Justice Gibson accomplished in a year?

  2. 225

    ADR is not the equivalent of “private courts”. In fact, ADR is the prevailing method of dealing with court backlogs in many parts of the world, including many countries with highly developed judiciaries. ADR comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and it would be both ignorant and incorrect to paint them all with the same brush. As with any system, all ADR systems have shortcomings. But the benefits are very tangible. In fact many of the same offshore businesses referred to in your article would likely prefer ADR to traditional courts in many situations. Don’t be so dismissive of ADR before you fully understand it.

  3. BFP

    Hello 225,

    You are entirely correct that ADR is an extremely valuable tool in reducing court backlogs, reducing costs for all concerned and greatly assists in avoiding court battles. The notion of calling ADR a ‘private court’ didn’t start with us, but we won’t get hung up on semantics. As far as we’re concerned ADR should be mandated as part of the formal system of bringing lawsuits in Barbados. Parties would have to give formal ADR negotiation / mediation etc a shot before the lawsuit could proceed.

    But ADR alone won’t cut it in Barbados. We’re too far gone. The lawyers run the courts and often run the judges too with no-shows, and last minute distribution of documents at the court door that is abusive and disrespectful. They lay hundreds of pages on some poor person at the last moment, then walk in and claim all parties have been served and let’s proceed. Then the other lawyer has to say he just got it and how can he proceed having just received 200 pages ten minutes before court – so the whole thing is put off for another five months and so on and on and on and on.

    The judges allow this to happen because nobody wants to be the bad guy or the tough guy in a small place like Bim. And then there is the fact that many judges chairs are hardly warmed for more than an hour or two a day if that. What’s with hundreds of parties still waiting for a judgment 5 and 10 years after the cases finished? That’s insanity! Is nobody supervising the judges?

    ADR will help, but it is no panacea. Without discipline of the lawyers, and of lazy judges – and a court administration system that can find all the papers all the time, ADR will be like spitting into the wind. Our court administration system can’t keep things straight now, so why should they be able to coordinate ADR as well?

  4. robert ross

    Has the Chief Justice delivered the judgment on behalf of the Court of Appeal in the constitutiohnally orientated ‘gun’ case yet.?


    You are right.


    Have you a new script writer?

    “We won’t get hung up on semantics” is a cop out. Just be big enough to say you got it wrong. And do please leave off the ego language – “abusive and disrespectful” is the language of those who think too much of themselves with all too often nothing to show for it. Simply say “a waste of our time and shoddy organisation” or similar.

    On the question of delay, you might also draw a distinction between those causes whch are and which are not ready for hearing..

    There are many causes of delay. I explored some of them on here. So your ‘broad brush’ approach, though entirely conventional on the free presses, is neither enlightening nor constructive.

    You might also explore what the present CJ has done to attempt the retrenching of delays in the system since you are quick to mention him. The name calling of the former CJ is petty and serves no useful purpose. It is the present with which we are concerned. The Simmonds’ years were not just about a new court building – but then you’ll read about that in his Memoirs won’t you?

  5. robert ross

    @ RLL

    Sorry – just saw yours. Yes – the right question. Of course he has done a lot of talking but………..And whatever happened to the Bar Association’s list of measures to reduce delays presented to him in, was it, December? We know the inaction – no, lack of acknowledgement – understandably got the BA President ratty and we know about the CJ’s adroit crowd-pulling response in the ‘leaked’ email. But what then?

  6. Anonymous42


    Did you ever find out if the CCJ was sending a delegation to Barbados, “in August”, to train the judiciary and Registry staff? I guess it may have been August 2013 the writer was referring to. Tomorrow never comes, especially in Barbados.

  7. passin thru

    If results are the standard by which we judge ‘progress’ then there has been no progress at all since Chief Justice Gibson came on board. That might or might not be his fault. He worked in the USA so he’s not accustomed to ‘island time’ and he might be feeling as frustrated as anyone at our seeming inability to get anything done as a society. Welcome to Barbados, Mr. Gibson!

    For me, I don’t care about plans, excuses or talk anymore. I want to see results from civil servants and politicians. I don’t give a SH*T about anything but results. No results = no progress. Don’t care why. Beyond caring why.

    In the last year, we’ve made no progress at all in the courts. None whatsoever. Lots of talk, though. From the Chief Justice, the old Chief Justice, the Police Commissioner, the Attorney General. None of it counts.

  8. robert ross

    @ Anon42

    I responded in the other place. My source in the heart of things told me that he knew of no plans for CCJ staff to visit in August. He also said that it was common to visit different jurisdictions for training purposes and he himself was in Canada for this purpose at the time of writing. That was what…..three months ago? In other words, even were a visit to take place it must most certainly not be seen as a condemnation of the host country.

    I have been out of the Island for some weeks and so have no idea what is happening though.

    What appears to have been a wilful dissemination of misinformation has, for me, been a considerable source of disenchantment with the so-called free underground presses which often seem no better, no more honourable, than those they (rightly) attack.

  9. 186

    Bottom line? You can do anything bowt heh and get away with it due to the ineffectiveness of the Court…so THINK BIG!

  10. 251

    Gibson has finally admitted after the relatively short time of 1 year that he is powerless to remedy the inertia of the Court and our legal system. Back to Shakespeare and his solution…kill all the lawyers.

  11. robert ross

    No-one has answered me about whether the ‘gun’ case judgment I mentioned above has yet been delivered. As I recollect, this case was heard in January. The judgment was promised in June I believe. Now: so far as I’m aware this would have been the first really serious judgment the CJ would have delivered since taking office, this on behalf of the Court of Appeal. How in Mad Mullah’s name does it take six months to get one judgment up? And now September is upon us. The CJ is a nice man BUT the oh so glorious hopes expressed of him all over the place were surely misplaced. Good at public relations but otherwise a bit of a legal washout.

  12. Mateo Gonzolves-Harrison

    3000 cases is a huge backlog in a small jurisdiction like Barbados. That’s hopeless and it doesn’t instill much confidence in the country’s systems. I think the Caribbean in general has had its time as a vacation and offshore financial destination. Asia is the new destination for Brits, taking over from Spain and France. Barbados used to be a foremost ‘tropical paradise’ destination and has lived on it’s rep for so long it lost perspective. People came to Barbados for what it was then, not for its name. Today you sell the name and the past reputation but you don’t have what it takes anymore.

  13. 37

    I have what I have taken from Barbados M G-H, better believe it.

  14. robert ross

    Comment is understandably being directed to the backlog of cases. A figure of 3000 cases has been mentioned and the figures are published. The implication is of a court system which is stuck, choked, pretty well dead.

    What the figures do not show, however, is the proportion of cases which are actually ready for hearing ……in theory the court is in principle ready to go…….and those which are not. My information is that there are probably less than 100 cases in the former category. Some of them have become (rightly) notorious.

    The vast majority are cases which are not ready for hearing. The causes have been filed but there is work still to do; and that may be for all sorts of reasons – a party may have died, money may be owed, all the relevant evidence may not be in, documents may have been lost, a party may be contumacious, critical letters may not have been answered, the lawyer may be a lazy ne’er do well, and so on. There is not much that can be done about this other than by taking draconian measures to strike out causes or, where the lawyer is clearly at fault, by making formal complaint..

    Of the 100 or less cases, there are measures which might be taken. Causes might be heard in the vacation as well as the term; there might be evening sittings, more judges might be appointed…but any of that would need a chief justice who is actually prepared to act and not just mouth and who is himself prepared to lead by example. There is precious little evidence of that sadly.

    The Bar Association, as I mentioned above, has sought to address delay but all their efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears, and incompetence or deafness or whatever it is deflected by reference to rapacious lawyers and the (asserted) inaction of the Disciplinary Committee….which, of course, is a song bound to please Joe Public.

    Yes, there are many sorry tales of rapacious lawyers, twisting lawyers, nepotistic lawyers, mugwump lawyers, political lawyers and we can ALL spin them. I suppose that lawyers as a breed are no better morally than the rest of us…and the rest of us must take our share of responsibility when we don’t turn up for appointments and prove slippery when it comes to payment or tell our lawyers a pack of lies – which then has to be unravelled.

    On the criminal side, as I implied above, police prosecutors are far, far too slow in having the paperwork ready for the defence to see (pre-trial disclosure) so that the trial can proceed. Adjournment follows adjournment and although magistrates have wittered on about dismissing charges for undue delay (when all too often the accused languishes on remand) in practice they don’t do it. For me, a remand which lasts for more than six months is simply unacceptable.

  15. Magpie in the gully

    Robert Ross you forgot one thing. The files for cases come and go. They are there, then they are ‘lost’ for the court date so a remand is given. Then the files return like magic. Then they disappear again for the next date or the date after. No accident this. All according to somebody plan. Happen all the time and people say you can make it happen you know the right people. Not about money, it about friends.

  16. 212

    Ross, Magpie all of you…here’s a scary thought…extrapolate the status quo of our largely failed Court/legal system, the thieving lawyers who are a unique social demographic (you see, no other class gets to fold, spindle, bend and mutilate the mechanisms of society …aka the Law…like lawyers)…by 10 years in the future and consider the status quo then. It will make today look like a happy day at the bitch.

  17. Jason X

    Don’t our leaders get it? Without a working, reliable judicial system we are a 3rd world backwater. We’re supposed to be an offshore business and financial centre. World class.

    World class. What a joke. That’s how we portray ourselves and then we hear that it takes 20 years for a simple condo dispute to make its way through the system. We have thousands of cases in the system that will never finish. Everybody knows this. Witnesses will die, people lose faith in the system and take their assets and investments and leave. What do you think is happening now?

    We are in so much shit we don’t even realise how deep this goes. Two years from now things will be so bad that 2012 will be remembered fondly as “the good old days”.

  18. robert ross

    We keep hearing about people taking their assets and leaving because of the legal system and the adverse effect delay in the system is having on the offshore sector. Is there any serious evidence of any of that?

  19. 106

    Ross is there any serious evidence you have a working brain that uses thought processes?


    Robert@ Do you know what most of the cases are about that is held up ? If its dealing with land it will be there forever . I can tell you , if it dealing with land none of the two sides is the owners, They look to see which lawyer is the best crook to walk off with, what not belong to them nor who sold it , SO the lawyer is just milking them out of their money. Both sides and the lawyer are crooks . Better look at Beatrice Henry and Violet Beackle for root titles deeds to plantations.
    Yes other countries smell a RAT when dealing with land and you cant not invest in midair unless you are tied to the Earth on land., After all this noise on the internet and they do a search at the Fraud Houses of the Barbados Government and cant not fine what they find in other countries , as a Title Company or title insurance they will run ,
    PONZI and CLICO and the DLP and BLP ,,,
    Try that mess in the US of A ,

  21. Pingback: Barbados solution to 20-year court backlog: throw it all out, nevermind justice and the victims | Barbados Free Press