Legal fraternity bids farewell to Chief Justice Richard Ground
Lawyers lined up yesterday to bid their fond farewells to Chief Justice Richard Ground, who retires at the end of the month.
He has served in the position since March 2004, and is due to hand over the reins to Puisne Judge Ian Kawaley.
Yesterday was the last of the monthly arraignments sessions he will preside over at Supreme Court, and lawyers took the opportunity to mark the occasion with speeches.
Leading the tributes, Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field said Bermuda has been “very lucky” to have Mr Justice Ground, who is from England, as Bermuda’s top judge.
He thanked him for shortening the backlog of cases that he inherited [see separate story] and being “an unimpeachable figurehead for the judiciary”.
Defence lawyer Saul Froomkin QC praised Mr Justice Ground for his “judicial acumen and intellect”.
He added: “I appreciate your incredible patience. I know on very rare occasions counsel’s egos, which are generally inflated, become more inflated and they carry on in a way that’s not in the best tradition of the Bar.
“Yet Your Lordship has been able to stay calm and run the court in a very professional way. We are going to miss you.”
Defence lawyer Charles Richardson was Called to the Bar in 2005 with the approval of Mr Justice Ground after serving a jail sentence for wounding and gun charges relating to a nightclub shooting.
He told the Chief Justice: “The first time I heard your name was within the walls of Westgate, believe it or not, and what I heard said about you was totally unexpected as to what you might expect inmates to say about the Chief Justice. What I always heard was you were fair.”
Mr Richardson said he was glad he’s since had chance to watch Mr Justice Ground at work.
“Nothing is more encouraging to a young advocate than a judge who’s fair but firm, and like Mr Froomkin, I’m going to miss you too,” he said.
Former Attorney General Larry Mussenden praised the top judge for his work on law reforms such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the way he handles cases without “coming down into the arena” of the courtroom.
Mr Mussenden, who is now a defence attorney, said: “Perhaps you have ticked us all off because we never really knew what you were thinking until the ruling came down and perhaps that’s the finest quality of a judge.”
Defence lawyer Larry Scott noted: “During your tenure, sir, there has never been an inkling of judicial impropriety that’s occurred under your watch. I think that’s a testament to your guidance and the value of the judicial system we rely on for our safety and well-being.”
Defence lawyer Mark Pettingill paid tribute to the Chief Justice’s decisions which have been “annoyingly unappealable” at the Court of Appeal.
“The one thing Your Lordship always commanded was bringing your A game,” he added.
Defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher said: “The most important thing I want to give you credit for is being fair.
“And I’m known for complaining, but I’ve never had any cause for concern and I have never seen anybody who has cause for concern or anybody who felt cheated in front of you and bearing in mind what goes on the [judge’s] bench that’s an amazing thing.”
Mr Field noted that outside of the legal field, Mr Justice Ground is a keen fisherman and photographer who has had books published depicting the bird life of the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and Bermuda.
Many of the lawyers expressed hopes that the Chief Justice would return to Bermuda one day to serve in the Court of Appeal. His predecessor in the post, Sir Austin Ward, is currently serving on that three-judge panel.
However, Mr Justice Ground gave no hint as to his future plans or wishes beyond saying: “I’m going to go to England and I’m going fishing.”
He thanked the lawyers for their kind words and told them: “I will miss you all too.”
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