New judges possess the tools for the gruelling demands of the job

Dear Editor,

I congratulate the new judges and believe that they can and will serve the nation well. President Granger in the swearing in ceremony noted that, “Judicial officers must be held to the standards of independence, integrity and impartiality” (SN July 20).  Once again, those three words can make a difference in perceptions of justice and fairness, both of which are sorely needed. Independence, integrity, and impartiality can add much needed credibility and lustre to the bench.

It is my belief that the new judges possess the personal tools for the gruelling demands required by the job.  They must also manifest unflagging courage and an iron will to decide on things as they conform to the law, which brings right back to those three sweeping words from the President: independence, integrity, and impartiality.  All three must be there.  Always, and through all too human frailties, some known, some still undiscovered.  Only in this manner will the judiciary function as the ultimate arbiter and trusted tribunal for the settlement of disputes, which are sometimes irreconcilable.

The independence and integrity of its robed figures (they still wear those, don’t they?) must be beyond reproach.  It must appear to be so, and actually be so.  I submit that whatever is there at the individual level, and it has to be much, must multiply and grow exponentially and to an unimpeachable degree.  I say so, even as I recall that critical and all too real observation of Justice Cardozo that judicial decision- making “is not discovery, but creation.”  Nonetheless, I think it can be done; and must be done for this society yearns for it.

As for impartiality, that is a viper’s nest, given this nation’s context, its sordid politics, and its prejudiced expectations.  This one is damned if done, and damned otherwise from every cave and valley and low and high places.  It is why I stated earlier that unflagging courage and iron will are vital for what will, in time, rise to be a sometimes thankless profession.  The last Gecom chairman can testify at length to this simmering state here.

Then there is that summons to impartiality.  Can impartiality be delivered by the newcomers without fear or favour?  Without uncertainty and uneasiness?  I think so.  It has to be so and never more so in the matters that count, that will unsettle.  They must be unmoved by sentiment.  After all, in view of the relative youthfulness of those elevated, they should be dispensing justice for decades to come, and beyond the time of many of us.  I urge them to do so; I believe that each can deliver in his or her own way and own style.

Yet, even as I so exhort, I am compelled to share this powerful and profound statement attributed to that originator from the school of legal realism, that giant of American jurisprudence, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  Justice Holmes said: “Ninety per cent of judicial decisions are based on bias, prejudices and personal political motivations, and the other 10% on the law.”  It is sobering.  It is also real.  And it is very significant in a much divided Guyanese environment.  The very best is extended to the new judges.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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