Courts shutdown as judges hold meeting at Supreme Court

There is widescale shutdown of the country's court system as judges from across Jamaica are now meeting at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston.
They are said to be upset about several issues including the appointment of Brian Sykes as acting Chief Justice. 
Several cases that had been scheduled for 10 o'clock Monday morning at the Supreme Court and Appeal Court were put off because of the unavailability of judges. 
Some judges told RJR News the meeting was to discuss administrative issues. 
It is believed that chief among these issues is the appointment of an acting Chief Justice. 
On January 31, Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte announced that Prime Minister Andrew Holness had asked Governor General Sir Patrick Allen to appoint Justice Sykes to replace retired Chief Justice Zaila McCalla until further advised.
The appointment of an acting Chief Justice was immediately frowned upon by the Parliamentary Opposition, the Jamaican Bar Association and civil society groups.
However, Mr. Holness defended the move, saying he was from a different age with a new way of thinking.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck on Friday hinted that a resolution will soon be found.
On Monday, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck described the timing of  the judges' meeting as ill-advised.
"It was quite inappropriate to have a meeting at 10 which created great inconvenience to users of the court... A more appropriate response could have been to have the meeting in the afternoon after you go to court and adjourn the matters," he suggested. 
Asked whether he thought the meeting had anything to do with Justice Brian Sykes' appointment as acting Chief Justice, Mr. Chuck said he had "no idea".
"I have not had any confirmation from the (president of the parish court) what is the issue.... Last week, she had asked me for the present state of final negotiatons for parish court judges and I had responded to her very promptly that the matter is with the Minister of Finance for settlement," he pointed out.                                                                          
Some attorneys have expressed frustration with Monday's disruption in the court system due to the meeting involving the judges.
Some laywers said there cases were put off, some for Tuesday, while no date had been reset for others.
Thomas Levene, an attorney based in St. Elizabeth, expressed his grievance to RJR News on Monday morning, arguing that there are several reasons why the delay in court proceedings will have a negative effect on the court system. 
"Several major courts were expected to sit today and what even makes it more troublesome is that there are several persons who are in custody (and) today is the deadline for dozens of matters to be transferred to the circuit court for the 26th of February. There are several pressing issues which we had expected to be resolved today, and for us attorneys, it's just at 9:30 that we learnt that no court will be sitting today," he contended. 
Mr. Levene as well as other attorneys have argued that although the move by judges might be justified, it will have a negative effect on the justice system which already has a number of cases in the backlog. 
RJR News tried unsuccessfully to get a response from Court Management Services on the development.

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