Bar Association sets up Internet website
-court decisions on line

Stabroek News
May 16, 1999

The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) on Friday evening became the first bar grouping in the Caribbean to have a website with all current and up-to-date decisions right up to the level of the Court of Appeal.

This was disclosed by Vice-President of the GBA, Nigel Hughes, in his remarks at the launching which took place at the Association's headquarters on Brickdam. Hughes said that it would have been embarrassing for the Association to enter the 21st century without some semblance of being aware of what is happening in the rest of the world.

To substantiate his claim that Guyana is the first Caribbean country to have up-to-date Court of Appeal decisions on the website, Hughes said that the decision in the criminal appeal of Thomas against the State is already on the information superhighway. That decision was handed down in February of this year.

According to Hughes, the website is already operational and decisions can be downloaded.

Hughes said that one of the important features of the website is a listing of all the members of the association and their areas of specialization. He explained that this is not a new feature to the website since a listing of attorneys in the Caribbean, USA and other places has already been established. The listing is made available on the website at a nominal fee of $3,500 per member and $500 per firm.

All members of the Judiciary, Magistracy, Land Court, official offices of the Attorney-General's Chambers, Director of Public Prosecutions, State Solicitor's Chambers and others have been listed. Hughes said that the association is now in the process of listing all the attorneys in the AG's Chambers.

Another feature of the website, according to the Vice-President, will be that it will provide up-to-date decisions available in print, beginning this year. Presently there are six decisions available, but Hughes said that in another six weeks, additional decisions should be on line. The aim is to have decisions on the web two weeks after being delivered to the respective parties.

For the next year attorneys using the facility will have to pay an annual subscription fee of $5,000. This will facilitate their access to all the decisions listed on the website. The submissions of the GBA to the Constitutional Reform Commission, according to Hughes, are already on web. He explained that a web forum or chat room has been set up where persons can discuss the constitutional proposals and decisions. A legal opinion listing will also be set up and the first opinion will be one from the AG's Chambers provided by Jamela Ali. Extracts from the New Guyana Bar Review will be posted up shortly.

The GBA listings on the website are available to both local and international surfers and this has been made possible through the firm of Software Dynamics.

In brief remarks, Chief Justice, Desiree Bernard, said that the establishment of the website by the GBA is commendable and that it affords everyone the opportunity to download the decisions of all the courts, (Magistrate's, High and Appellate). She expressed the hope that whenever decisions are handed down by these courts, they will be made available to members of the Bar.

She spoke of the need for up-to-date law reporting and said the judiciary is about 24 years behind (other countries) in its law reporting. The Chief Justice disclosed that it is only now that the written law reports for 1975 are being made available. She said that many young lawyers attend court without knowing decisions and cases cited, "this is something which we need to correct". "The law books are the tools of our profession and nothing can be done without the tools. There is no use in coming to court to prepare your case without being able to present your arguments" the Chief Justice told Members of the legal profession present.

Bernard said that quite often lawyers go to court ill-prepared and this invariably places a burden on the Judges to find precedents to justify their decisions. She expressed the hope that now that the website is operational, the Bar and the Bench will be better prepared and up-to-date with current decisions. She told the members of the legal profession that with such a development they should now be properly equipped to perform their duties far more efficiently in citing legal authorities in matters. She said that the website will serve to compliment the efforts of producing written legal reports which in her opinion is a monumental task.

Justice Bernard said it is commendable that the GBA will be entering the 21st century with new technology that is available and that the association will not be left far behind. She praised the GBA for the initiative and expressed the hope that the entire judiciary will take an interest in the website.

The establishment of the website is the brainchild of Hughes, while assistance was provided by an editorial team headed by State Prosecutor, Roxanne George.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples