Outgoing President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron, said the ascension of Justice Saunders “is a powerful symbol of what can be achieved right here in the Caribbean”.
Justice Saunders is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, with a Bachelor of Law Degree (1975) and the Hugh Wooding Law School with his Legal Education Certificate (1977).
Sir Dennis noted Justice Saunders has embraced the broad mandate of the CCJ and supported all efforts to improve the dispensation of justice by the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) highest appellate court.
Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said Justice Saunders appointment is a milestone in the evolution of the region’s judicial history and sends a positive message about the standard of the region’s legal education system.
Justice Saunders has a distinguished career spanning more than 20 years. He is a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In 2003, he was confirmed as a Justice of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and one year later he was appointed to act as Chief Justice of that Court. Justice Saunders was appointed a Judge of the CCJ in 2005.
Prime Minister of St Vincent, Dr Ralph Gonsalves said he is not worried about the CCJ in the hands of Justice Saunders. St Vincent has not adopted the CCJ as its final appellate court but PM Gonsalves said: “maybe I will try again”. St Vincent requires a referendum to establish the CCJ as its final court.
Justice Saunders was appointed by CARICOM heads of government at the inter-sessional meeting in February, following his nomination by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC).
No good reason to doubt the ability of Caribbean people
In brief remarks of gratitude following his swearing-in, Justice Saunders said he is well aware of his historic achievement as CCJ’s president with training entirely in the Caribbean.
Justice Saunders noted this signal the growing maturity of the Court. More importantly, he noted that the region “have no good reason to doubt our ability to grasp full responsibility for interpreting and applying our own laws”.
“Everything is all set for the Court to become as excepted as for example the University of the West Indies or the Caribbean Development Bank, or the Caribbean Examinations Council all Caribbean institutions run by Caribbean nationals working to promote the ethos and goals of a proud Caribbean,” Justice Saunders noted.
Gratitude to Sir Dennis
Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, noted Sir Dennis presided with distinction over several landmark decisions. PM Holness added the CCJ has benefited greatly from Sir Dennis’ years of experience. Sir Dennis served the CCJ from 2011-2018.
CARICOM’s Secretary General, Ambassador LaRocque, commended Sir Dennis for his sterling service rendered to the Court and the Community. “During his tenure he has presided over judgements with far-reaching effects, entrenching the rules-based nature of our Community,” Ambassador LaRocque said.
Sir Dennis is also credited for his significant contribution to the advancement of the Community’s integration process and regional jurisprudence. Justice Saunders expressed his profound gratitude to Sir Dennis, a long-time mentor.
The CCJ was inaugurated April 16, 2005, in Trinidad and Tobago where it is headquartered. Its central role is providing legal certainty to the operations of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
It is structured to have two jurisdictions – an original and an appellate. In its original jurisdiction, it ensures uniform interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. As the final court of appeal for member states of the CARICOM, it fosters the development of an indigenous Caribbean jurisprudence.
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