Reduction Of Services Due To ‘Staffing Crisis’

May 31, 2018 | 25 Comments

[Updated] There will be a “reduction of the scope of services provided to Bermuda by the Judicial Department” which is a “direct result of the Department’s relentless staffing crisis” as “with just a 51% complement of staff” they are “no longer in a position to continue to attempt to provide full services.”

This was announced today in a circular released by the Acting Registrar, with a joint statement from the Chief Justice Dr Ian Kawaley and Acting Registrar Alexandra Wheatley saying that “this state of affairs is crippling the Judicial Department’s ability to provide efficient and effective access to justice for Bermuda’s residents.”

Court Bermuda May 31 2018

Joint Statement

In a joint statement, Chief Justice Dr Ian Kawaley and Acting Registrar Alexandra Wheatley said, “On 23 March 2018, the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Honourable Kathy Lightbourne-Simmons presented the Budget Brief for the Judicial Department to the Senate. The Budget Brief was clear in outlining the ongoing staffing crisis of the Department.

‘Little To No Effective Resolve’

“The Assistant Registrar, Alexandra Wheatley, who has effectively been appointed as the Acting Registrar for 2018, with the assistance of the Registrar Subair Williams [currently Acting Justice] and Senior Management have thrown themselves into attempting to bring resolution to this untenable position. Despite these valiant efforts, there has been little to no effective resolve.

‘Crippling The Judicial Department’s Ability’

“This state of affairs is crippling the Judicial Department’s ability to provide efficient and effective access to justice for Bermuda’s residents. As a direct result of the continuing lack of resolution to filling the 51% of posts which are currently vacant within the Judicial Department [including both the Supreme Court and Magistrates’ Court Divisions], Circular No 13 of 2018 was issued in respect of the difficulties being experienced in the Probate Division. This being just a snapshot of the overall picture.

“Government policies for filling vacant posts, combined with the equally onerous procedures of the Department of Human Resources, are paralyzing the Department’s ability to function effectively. Efforts by the Judicial Department to address the staff shortage crisis have been rigorous and continuous since 2016.

‘Summarily Rebuffed Without Appropriate Deliberation’

“Resolutions presented to gain exemptions from Public Service recruitment policies and procedures taking into account the constitutional status of the Judiciary as an independent branch of Government have been summarily rebuffed without appropriate deliberation. The Chief Justice has publically addressed these same concerns on several occasions.

‘Notice Of The Reduction Of Services’

“A further Circular was issued on 31 May 2018 which gave notice of the reduction of services provided by the Judicial Department to Bermuda

“Given the Judicial Department’s powerlessness in meeting the expectations set by practitioners and members of the public, this decision was inevitable. The inability to fulfill these reasonable expectations continues to be an insurmountable task without a full complement of staff.

‘Deplorable Situation’

“This deplorable situation not only impacts the Judicial Department, but its consequences are far reaching. Without a doubt, Bermuda as a whole is negatively impacted and quite arguably Bermuda’s reputation in the International Business sector will be called into question.

“Further rubbing salt into the Judicial Department’s proverbial wounds, is the recent recommendation to cease the use of 113 Front Street which is now dedicated court space for the Court of Appeal on health and safety grounds.

“Consequently, the Court of Appeal Session commencing on 4 June 2018 has had to be relocated Court #1 in Sessions House as this is the only location with the required facilities.

‘Trials Having To Be Adjourned’

“This has resulted in Supreme Court jury trials, where citizens’ liberty is at stake, having to be adjourned for a minimum of three weeks as there is no alternative location for either an additional criminal court or for the Court of Appeal. This is yet another repercussion of inadequate resources and attention being provided to the Judicial Department over the years.

“The Judicial Department has exhausted its attempts to adequately resolve this crisis. It is neither helpful nor is it efficient use of our limited and precious resources to be further invested in fruitless exercises.

‘Power To Resolve Crisis In Hands Of AG’

“The power to resolve this crisis is in the hands of the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs who is the Minister with responsibility for the Judicial Department and who, like many of her predecessors, has yet to take effect action to adequately meet the administrative needs of the Judiciary.“

Update 6.02pm: Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Kathy Simmons said, “The outgoing Chief Justice, and the Acting Registrar of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal [presumably acting on behalf of the Registrar]; issued a surprise joint press statement today. This demands clarification for the benefit of the public and all concerned.

“Information obtained from the Department of Human Resources discloses that:

  • “There are a total of 66 positions comprising the Judicial Department,
  • “79% [52 positions] are currently filled,
  • “15% [8 of 52 positions] are filled by acting or temporary staffing,
  • “21% [14 positions] are currently vacant without any relief support, and
  • “95% [21 of the 22 vacant positions] are administrative staff or similar level support staff. The only other vacancy is the Assistant Registrar [AR] post, currently occupied by an Acting AR,
  • “4 – Awaiting Requests from the Judiciary to fill.

“The raw data on its face reveal’s a contradiction between it and the crisis depicted.

“Upon assuming office I was apprised of vacancies within my Ministry generally and the Judiciary in particular, created in large part by the former Government’s Civil Service staff reduction policies. Measures have since been taken to address this issue. Indeed the data also reveals that a number of the vacated positions are in the process of being filled in accordance with Government’s hiring rules.

“Other statements in the Press Release are also inaccurate or misleading. I have been working closely with the Courts to provide legislation to improve its operations. This includes the recently passed Evidence [Audio Visual Link] Act 2018 which was being sought for years before this Government took office.

“Opportunity was also seized in the Press Release to advocate for the Judiciary to not be financially accountable to the Government in accordance with the current system of checks and balances. This development does not bode well for that objective. In fact it foreshadows an alternative reality allowing for brinkmanship to override prudence especially in such challenging situations.

“Accordingly, I would like to assure the public that the priority warranted by the indispensable function of the Judiciary is valued by my Ministry. Necessary steps will continue to be taken to address the current situation with the usual multi-departmental collaboration.”

The Circular on the Reduction of Court Services follow below [PDF here]:

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Comments (25)

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  1. Ken Spurling says:

    They could give briefs to Members of the Bermuda Bar as prosecutors as is done in the UK.

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    Why is the government crippling the courts this way? Is it because they do not approve of the new Chief Justice?

    • puzzled says:

      Been going on for many years. Pay attention.
      Nothing to do with the new Chief Justice.

    • watching says:

      Do not be ridiculous. This has been something that has been going on for years and just getting worse. It is irrelevant who the CJ is.

  3. Legalgal says:

    And they are losing their 2 independent commercial judges. By not advertising for suitable replacements internationally our international IB reputation is at stake. And they refuse to maintain the dignity of the office. Sad day that it has come to this.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      The incoming Chief Justice is a commercial lawyer of the first order and is internationally known and respected. We do need a second commercial judge and advertisements have been made for one.

  4. Jeez says:

    When is Immigration going to release a similar statement as to why work permits are taking upwards of 12 weeks to be approved? 4500 people working in the public sector and we are still being shafted.

    • nerema says:

      Try and get something through Planning in under 6 months. Can’t be done.

  5. nerema says:

    The PLP. Doing Less With More.

    • Earth watch police says:

      This is what we voted for hang on more is coming

    • Sigh says:

      It started with the OBA to do less with more.

      • Question says:

        The PLP has been in charge 24-12 for a year. You could change anything you want. What is your excuse?

      • Mark says:

        Youre right and that was because of the plp’s nonsense before.

  6. Toodle-oo says:

    How is it that with a gov’t debt of 2.5B we can even think we can have good old full service standards like we did pre 2007 ?
    Mind you , with a grossly bloated civil service in relation to our population they just perform to the overstaffed level that they always did. No-one has to hustle or put out like they do in the private sector .

    People who live in poor and struggling households don’t see steak and lobster for dinner or 300 channel cable TV.
    We need to get used to seeing this type of thing. It’s going to be a very long time before our debt is (if ever ) eliminated .

  7. Legalgal says:

    Perhaps they could have a whip around and fix the voice mail system which hasn’t been functioning since October while they are at it.

  8. Make it work says:

    Could someone within the department please list all the open positions and avenue of contact. There are a number of over qualified or under employed out there which might fit the mold, myself included.

  9. Stevie says:

    Same old same old from PLP.

    • Time Shall Tell says:

      Try reading the actual post instead of just the headlines next time. If you had actually read the article you would of seen this, “created in large part by the former Government’s Civil Service staff reduction policies. Measures have since been taken to address this issue. Indeed the data also reveals that a number of the vacated positions are in the process of being filled in accordance with Government’s hiring rules.”

      • Mark says:

        Mate, theyve been saying that forever. Still hasnt happened and thats why were here

      • Politricks says:

        Brought about by the PLP’s financial mismanagement between 2006 to 2012.

        Cuts weren’t made for cuts sake.

  10. sage says:

    Streamlining would be better for us, but thats a profane word in government.

  11. Mark says:

    Wait. I got a pamphlet in the mail the other day from the plp asking for my vote and saying that they had decreased the deficit by 50%. Is this how theyre doing it? I thought this was the new fair plp where equality meant a lot to them…no court services, no protection of children…guess that isnt important to them.

  12. Dread says:

    Educate a few more people up westgate for the Court’s

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