Chancellor Bernard formulates 'Code of Conduct' for judiciary By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle
December 15, 2003

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A 'Code of Conduct' to inform the modus operandi and deportment of Judges and Magistrates in Guyana was launched on Friday afternoon by Chancellor of the Judiciary Ms Desiree Bernard at an august gathering of legal professionals at the Georgetown Club, Camp Street.

Formulated by Chancellor Bernard, the 'Code of Conduct' is intended to be a guide for Judges and Magistrates in the discharge of their functions of their office. According to Ms Bernard, the formulation and launch of the Code of Conduct, constituted the fulfillment of a pledge made by her, shortly after her assumption to office as Chancellor of the Judiciary.

The 17-page document contains the principles and rules, which all persons who administer justice are required to observe in their day-to-day relationships with the legal profession, and with the public.

Addressing Friday's solemn occasion, Chancellor Bernard said: "An independent and impartial Judiciary is the bulwark of any democracy, and as such, those who administer justice must honour the oath taken on assumption of office - to dispense justice without fear or favour, affection of ill will."

The Chancellor opened her preface to the document with the exhortation: "Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen and done," an unyielding precept, she said, which is today, no less relevant than it was, when pronounced by Lord Hewart in Rex v. Sussex Justices ex parte Mc Carthy (1924) KB, 256.

Ms Bernard admonished each and every member of the Judiciary and Magistracy to spare no effort in ensuring that the streams of justice remain "pure and unpolluted".

Advancing her case for the importance of public confidence in the Judiciary, and insisting that such authority be maintained, Ms Bernard alluded to Justice Frankfurther of the United States Supreme Court, who posited that: "The Court has neither purse nor sword; its authority rests on substantial public confidence in its moral sanctions."

The values, which the Code upholds are: Propriety, Independence, Integrity, Impartiality, Equality, Competence and Diligence, and Accountability.

These include: the avoidance of impropriety and the appearance of impropriety by Judges and Magistrates in all their activities; conducting himself or herself in a way that is consistent with the dignity of judicial office; ceasing all partisan political activity, or involvement; refraining from membership of political parties, political fundraising, contributing to political parties or campaigns, attendance at political gatherings; and refraining from engaging in financial or business dealings except in relation to family investments.

"A Judge shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence which is fundamental to the maintenance of judicial independence, and shall not engage in conduct incompatible with the diligent discharge of judicial duties, among other things," the Code states.

And Attorney General Mr Doodnauth Singh, agreeing that public confidence is something, which the Judiciary should foster and concern itself with, said that the Judiciary should do more than it has in the past to foster public confidence in the judicial system.

Alluding to the matter of 'Judicial corruption', the Attorney General noted that this can take many forms, the most notable being financial inducement of a Judge in exchange for a desired legal outcome.

Mr Singh noted that an independent Judiciary is less susceptible to systemic corruption hence the Judiciary may equip its members with the tools necessary to resist graft by providing an adequate salary.

He also referred to Judges being threatened with harm in the execution of their duties. To this end, the Attorney General mentioned two forms of preventing all types of corruption, as proffered by a Summary Report on the International Judicial Conference held in San Francisco, California in 2000 - strengthening the independence of the Courts and decreasing the personal vulnerability of Judges.

Mr Singh said that when a Judicial Code is launched, the public should note what process exists for registering complaints about judicial misconduct. He said that a vital aspect of judicial independence lies in securing institutional independence, protecting the internal administration of the Court from the threat, reach or proceeds from outside interests.

He concurred with Chief Justice the Honourable George Boyle of South Australia, that "Public confidence in the Judiciary and in the Judicial System is an important support for, and perhaps a convenience for judicial independence and the administration of justice".

The Attorney General expressed the view that the time has come for the Judiciary to accept as one of its functions, the obligation to go beyond conducting itself in a manner, which maintains public confidence.

He also submitted that the Judiciary should foster confidence in the Courts, by doing what it can to ensure that the public understands what the Courts do; how they transact their business; and why they function as they do.

Noting that principles governing the conduct of Judges and Magistrates are now clearly identifiable in writing, removing the possibility of ambiguity, so that everyone knows what they are, Mr Singh commended the Chancellor for the effort she put into producing the code of ethics.