Dozens of legal luminaries throughout the Caribbean including several chief justices will attend the special sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday February 19, to say farewell to one of its judges, Desiree Bernard, the lone female on the court.
The spacious Guyana International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara will be converted into a court for the occasion as well as to hear a few cases before the farewell sitting. The entire seven member panel of the CCJ will sit and President Sir Denis Byron will officiate at the proceedings.
This is the first time that the regional court will sit in Guyana and no doubt it decided to do so since Justice Bernard is a distinguished Guyanese jurist who was appointed the first female trial judge, appellate court judge, Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary. She also has had a distinguished career further afield having served as President of the Organization of Commonwealth Carib-bean Bar Associations (OCCBA) and founding Secretary of the Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA). She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies for her sterling contribution to law and women’s affairs and received the eighth Caricom Triennial Women’s Award.
In Guyana she received the country’s second highest national award, the Order of Roraima (OR), and the Cacique Crown of Honour (CCH). She also founded the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers.
She was appointed a High Court judge in 1980 and I recall when I wrote an article a week before her appointment that it was high time for a female judge.
Justice Bernard who joined the regional court from its inception, is the third judge of the CCJ to go into retirement. The other two are Guyanese Duke Pollard and Trinidadian Michael de la Bastide, who served as the first President of the court which was inaugurated in April 2005.