Registrar must conduct herself in a manner befitting her office
Stabroek News
March 24, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I wish to brief you of my recent experience at the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Guyana.

The reason for my presence at the Registrar's office at 2:30 pm Friday afternoon was to seek service of an Order made by the Hon. Justice Moore in a private matter. At the Registry, I was informed by an officer that a new system was in place which required the Registrar to directly assign the marshal in each case to execute service in all matters. I was further informed that the book for the assigning of marshals was with the Secretary to the Registrar, however, that everyone would have to wait since the Registrar was in a meeting and was not to be disturbed.

After waiting along with others for some 45 minutes, I decided to enquire whether there was anyone else who could perform the duty of assigning the marshals (I had observed no less than six marshals present and ready to perform their duties). It was then explained to me that when the Registrar is not available, another officer was tasked with the responsibility, however, the said officer was also in the meeting with the Registrar.

On observing a crowd at the entrance of the Registrar's office I decided to enquire with the Secretary to the Registrar on the likelihood of further service being executed that afternoon. The Secretary informed me that she knew nothing of my matter. When I pointed out to her my understanding that the 'Book' for the Registrar was with her, she promptly picked up a 'Book' (which was on her desk) informed me that no one had given it to her and that the Registrar was in a meeting. However, that she would take the Book in just in case the Registrar attends to same. I decided to go outside for a while to pass time and after a few minutes went back inside to see whether there was any progress. After observing me standing at the door for a while the Secretary indicated to me that she would check to see whether the Registrar had signed the book. I saw her open the Registrar's door and peep into the room. I do not know what was said to the Registrar, but in a minute the Registrar burst out of her office, marched up pointing her finger at me (unfortunately I was the first person standing at her secretary's door) enquiring in a loud, aggressive and uncouth manner 'are you the person who said you can't wait .......if you cannot wait, you may leave! The door is there! you may leave, the door is there!' She then promptly returned to her office, leaving a defenseless looking secretary behind meekly attempting to explain the outburst.

I was speechless! Embarrassed! Not for myself, since I do not need Ms. Sita Ramlall to determine my self worth. But embarrassed for the system in which all of us mortals have to suffer, including attorneys. I looked at the rest of the persons who were waiting outside Ms. Ramlall's office to be called in for what appeared to be an enquiry in progress. They all gazed back at me in resignation as if to say 'we go through this every day'. And more, it was not more than two minutes later that the 'Book' came out of Ms. Ramlall's office ready for the Marshals, who were at hand waiting, to escort myself and others for service. It was almost 4.00pm that Friday afternoon.

Mr. Editor, my first concern is for the integrity of the administration of our Supreme Court Registry which, from all appearances, is administered by someone who is not aware that she holds a public office and as such is required to conduct herself in a manner befitting such an office. I find her conduct most disgusting to say the least, and have to wonder what manner of service can the public expect from the staff of the Supreme Court Registry. Ms. Ramlall ought to know that such contemptuous behaviour will not earn her the respect of the public assuming that is her objective. Even if her Secretary had reported that I, or anyone else, had demanded her immediate attention in a matter (which was certainly not the case), a request she obviously considers presumptuous, that does not give her the right to barge out of her office and attack the first unsuspecting victim. Anyone with a little finesse, or some appreciation of the decorum required of public officers, would know how to respond to 'presumptuous' members of the public.

With respect to the new rule, the fact that it creates situations of persons being kept waiting for hours before service can be executed, says a lot for its effectiveness. It was only in December last when I had to serve an injunction on a Defendant that the whole transaction at the registry was completed in no more than 15 minutes: the first marshal available was off to perform the service. Of course, changes in any system, whether it is to counter malpractices or some other defect, must be so made to allow for efficiency. Otherwise, we may simply be creating more bottlenecks in the system and hence frustrations for the persons whom it is supposed to serve.

Yours faithfully,

Morsha Johnson

Attorney at Law