A. If a person is a party in a case, he or she may attend the court and obtain copies of documents on the file by paying for said copies. Unless one can demonstrate that he or she is an interested party, they will not be allowed to view and make copies of any files. It is important to note that the Access to Information Act does not apply to Court files unless it is a matter of an Administrative nature. See section 5(7) of the Access to Information Act.
Q. Can I speak to any of the Judges?
A. No. Only where you are in court or chambers as a litigant in a suit can such a request be accommodated.
Q. Where can I obtain a copy of the Court List?
A. The Supreme Court website has a link that will allow one to download, view and print the current week’s court list or an archived list.
A. For persons called to serve in the Home Circuit Court/Kingston and Saint Andrew, a letter is to be written to the Chief Justice of Jamaica stating the reason for non attendance and a request be made to be excused from serving at the time stipulated on the summons. The letter should include a time when you will be available to serve. Medical reasons should be documented by a medical certificate from a doctor on a form obtained at the Court’s Office. For persons called to serve in all other parishes, they must attend the court on the first day of the service period and seek the permission of the presiding Judge for that circuit.
A. No, unless it is in relation to Divorce Proceedings. It is however recommended that all litigants be represented by Counsel in all cases because there are prescribed forms used to initiate and proceed in cases at the Supreme Court. Also, the Court does not provide advice or assistance in drafting documents for filing.
A. The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal is the highest Court physically resident in Jamaica. It deals with Appeals from the decisions made in the Supreme Court and Parish Courts. It also hears appeals from certain bodies such as the Industrial Disputes Tribunal and the General Legal Council. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is Jamaica’s highest Court sits in London, hears appeals from the Court of Appeal.
A. The Supreme Court
The work of the Supreme Court is conducted in a number of different divisions, based on the nature and subject matter of cases to be heard. These divisions are Criminal (Circuit Court), Civil, Commercial, and Review/Constitutional. Specialised Superior Courts in which Supreme Court Judges sit have also been created to complement the work of the Supreme Court. These are the Revenue Court, established under the Revenue Court Act in 1971, and the Gun Court (High Court and Circuit Court Divisions ) established under the Gun Court Act in 1974. The Gun Court Act was amended in 1999 to include the Western Regional Gun Court, with geographical jurisdiction for the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Trelawny and Westmoreland.
A. The Parish Courts
The Parish Courts deals with both civil and criminal cases but has limited jurisdiction in the following ways:
- A geographical limitation in that, cases must be dealt with in the parish where the act took place. The Judge has jurisdiction within the parish and one mile beyond its boundary line.
- Serious crimes, such as murder and rape, are never tried in the Parish Court. A preliminary enquiry is usually held before the Judge who determines whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the accused to answer the charges. Where it is determined that there is sufficient evidence, the case is sent to the Circuit Court for trial. Where the amount of money in a civil case exceeds a certain sum, the Judge does not have jurisdiction to deal with it.
A. A Supreme Court Judge is appointed by the Governor-General of Jamaica on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission. A candidate for Judge of the Supreme Court must be an Attorney-at-Law with at least 10 years standing at the bar.
A. Yes, for the purpose of visiting the court registry when necessary. In terms of attending a hearing, matters in chambers are not open to the public. Most court room hearings are open to the public however, given the constraint of space, a group may need to first speak with the Registrar before attending. Some open court hearings are termed “in camera hearings” and are closed to the public. Cases involving minors are usually held “in camera”.
Q. Is parking available to members of the public?
A. Paid Parking facility is available for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal at the UDC public parking building behind the court building at the usual parking rates.
Q. Do the Courts have a dress code?
A. Yes. Members of the public are to be modestly dressed and as such shorts, merinos, sleeveless shirts, tights and very short skirts are not allowed.