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Top magistrate vows to get tough on disorganised lawyers

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Laying down the law: Senior Magistrates Maxanne Anderson

A get-tough approach has been signalled for Magistrates’ Court – for absentee lawyers and anyone flouting codes of dress and conduct.

Security staff have been instructed to deal with people attempting to appear in clothes such as pyjamas or crop tops, last week’s opening of the Supreme Court’s legislative year heard.

A “no-nonsense approach” was vowed by senior magistrate Maxanne Anderson.

She told the special sitting on Friday there had been “a deterioration in the standards of those who appear in the courts” in the wake of the disruption of Covid-19.

Ms Anderson’s speech was read in her absence by magistrate Tyrone Chin.

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun (centre) presides over the special session of the Supremne court on Friday. At right is Magistrate Tyrone Chin, who read the report of Senior Magistrates Maxanne Anderson. At left is Puisne Judge Nicole Stoneham (Photograph by Jason Swan/DCI)

The senior magistrate took an uncompromising stand on “lawyers who miss court appearances or trials, which are adjourned without notification or communication with the courts”.

She said no-shows put the court diaries into “disarray”, left defendants and complainants frustrated, and bumped up legal fees.

Court security officers have been instructed to ensure appropriate dress is obeyed, she added.

“Most recently I have seen pyjamas, shorts, undervests, crop tops, flip-flops and do-rags in court,” she said.

“There must be a basic level of decorum adhered to in the courts, not only in appearance but also in how one addresses the court.

“Therefore, Magistrates’ Court will be vigilant in ensuring that persons that appear in court conduct themselves in a manner which is consistent with the proper administration of justice.”

Ms Anderson also said she would request a pay rise for lay magistrates who step in to help the running of the courts – but who are paid “a paltry $50 a day, which amounts to $6.25 an hour”.

“This is not acceptable, given the complex and delicate matters which they preside over.”

She said she would be calling for $150 a day – “which would be in line with the suggested minimum wage” due to take effect this summer.

Narinder Hargun, the Chief Justice, praised the swift work of the Supreme Court in dealing with a backlog of indictments after the pandemic, which he said had been halved.

Mr Justice Hargun noted the adoption of new technology forced on the courts by Covid-19.

“The use of technology in our courts, especially in the commercial courts, is of particular relevance in this jurisdiction’s efforts to expand or retain its share of international business.

“International business, as practitioners know, is highly competitive.”

He said their choice of jurisdictions was driven by “sophisticated consumers largely made of corporate lawyers” who took special note of the “credibility and efficiency of the judicial system”.

Noting the Bermuda Judiciary’s annual report for 2021, Mr Justice Hargun said he was “pleased” that the Minister of Finance had “confirmed his support to providing funding for the digital case management system – and we have commenced necessary steps to complete the procurement process”.

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Published February 13, 2023 at 8:03 am (Updated February 13, 2023 at 8:20 am)

Top magistrate vows to get tough on disorganised lawyers

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