No order in court
Post-Maria delays in setting up the Roseau High Court is hurting lawyers and legal workers
Lawyers say that their businesses are dying and workers at the Roseau High Court also complain that mold is killing them, the Sun can report.
The authorities, they all claim, do not seem to care about the resumption of the justice system five months after the category five Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica causing indescribable damage and suffering.
"We can't take it anymore. It's clear that the authorities just don't care about us…it's bad, very bad; now a number of staff at the Registry have gone on sick leave," said a staff member who spoke to the SUN on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Environmental Health Department was called in to examine the Court and Registry building but nothing more has been done, the Sun has been told.
"We have submitted our report and findings to the relevant authorities and that is all…we can say on the matter," an official from the Environmental Health Department said.
Lawyers also say that they are frustrated; their businesses are stagnating because they can't work if the court system is not operating.
"I think that the Government is taking a very scant approach towards the court system," said a prominent lawyer who did not wish to be named. "It must be noted that the court system forms part of the legal system which is number one priority. The Permanent Secretary was the Deputy Registrar so she is well aware of how the system operates."
He added: "We are greatly affected by the court system…now we are not able to have titles issued to our clients and there have a number of legal matters pending but the system is not in place to deal with them. It must be noted that the resident Judge is trying her best but is only dealing with applications and we also have the Criminal Court which is also not in operation because the court has been damaged and the Judge is out of state since the system is all broken down."
According to the lawyer: "There are lots of criminal matters…those indicted and awaiting trial are calling asking what has happened to their matters. We tell them we have nothing from the courts. We have also filed matters in the courts and because of the situation we cannot be paid. I can't pay my staff since my office is heavily dependent on matters in court, so I can't function.
"The court staff also needs to be properly treated. I am aware that the Registrar of the High Court, Ossie Walsh, has been suffering from the mold situation also, he has gone on sick leave because of the situation".
The lawyers also blame the the Ministry of Justice; they claim it has done "nothing" to alleviate the situation.
"The Bar Association has written to the Government and has also spoken to the Attorney General and nothing has been done. We have made recommendations to use the parliament building and this has not been forth coming. Our magistrate's court is also in disarray having to deal with criminal and all other matters. The Government is doing nothing", the lawyer stated.
"What is going on now is total disrespect to the Judges and for the court system on a whole. We are also very disappointed in the Permanent Secretary who is a lawyer and was Deputy Registrar of the court who knows the system and the struggles to be a voice having worked in the Registry. She should have been the voice, also the Attorney General who was a magistrate etc.; they have taken a scant approach and a lazy approach which is affecting our business."
When contacted, Registrar Ossie Walsh referred us to Permanent Secretary Joann Commodore.
"I am guided by the General Orders and I cannot speak on the matter," Commodore said.
Minister of National Security, Rayburn Blackmore, neither answered our several phone calls nor had he returned any of our calls by press time.