By Shaniel Hunter,
Norman Manley Law School
Marjorie Ilma Knox v John Vere, Evelyn Dean et al  CCJ 4 (AJ)
The Caribbean Court of Justice has made a strong statement that neither ‘poverty’ nor ‘foreignness’ can be used to hinder access to justice. It overturned a decision of the Barbados Court of Appeal ordering Ms. Knox to pay, before her appeal could even be heard, the sum of $175,000 as security for costs (i.e. the legal expenses that might be incurred by the respondent if Ms Knox lost her appeal.)
The Court of Appeal’s order had been made on the basis that Ms. Knox, who lived in Miami and had limited finances, would not be able to pay those expenses if her appeal was unsuccessful.
In overturning this decision, the CCJ strongly emphasised that an order for security cannot automatically be made because a litigant is a foreigner or is of limited financial means. Instead there must be a balancing exercise which takes into account (1) the ability of a litigant to pay the costs of the appeal if he is unsuccessful, (2) the special circumstances of the case and (3) whether it is just to make the order.
It is also important that the amount of security ordered to be paid must be reasonable. Therefore the amount ordered must be based on the guidelines contained in the rules of court. The Knox decision demonstrates that the CCJ is committed to ensuring that persons from all walks of life are able to access the justice system. The court will make sure that in principle the doors of the courthouse must remain open to all; whether you are rich, poor, foreign or local.
This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgment of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found at http://www.caribbeancourtofjustice. org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012-CCJ-4-AJ.pdf.