The Judiciary Adapted and Responded to the Unpredictable Environment of the COVID-19 Era

The Hon. Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree brought remarks at the modified ceremony (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) to mark the beginning of the 2021 Legal Year at Rawson Square on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. The ceremony opened with Inspection of the Honour Guard of officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. (BIS Photos/Kristaan Ingraham)

The Hon. Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree stated that the Judiciary in The Bahamas has not escaped the intrusive and disruptive impact of COVID-19.

Those who are responsible for the administration of justice have had to adapt and respond to the dynamic and unpredictable environment of the COVID-19 era as national governments and public health officials have struggled to mitigate and contain the transmission of the virus, the Chief Justice said in his remarks at the modified ceremony (due to the pandemic) to mark the beginning of the 2021 Legal Year at Rawson Square on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

However, the Chief Justice explained that last year the Judiciary made major progress on many fronts through the execution of the Court Modernization and Reform Initiative. “Our mission is to continue the process of reform in 2021 at an increased pace to recover some of the time lost as a result of COVID-19 in order to deliver on my commitment to overhaul the Court system in The Bahamas.”

He stated that one such initiative includes the Integrated Case Management System. This will be the backbone of the new ICT platform for the Judiciary and will allow the Courts to deliver a wide range of E-Services including E filing, E-scheduling, E-Payments, E-Notices, E-Probate and other customized subject matter applications. The Chief Justice said the procurement process has now been completed and in December 2020 the contract was signed with the Anchor Group for the design and implementation of the ICMS. Under the contract, the ICMS is to be completed and installed within 12-months and there is an additional six-month post implementation period for follow up work.

He noted that the Anchor representatives have already commenced work and they will be on the ground in Nassau by the end of this week. An electronic filing feature via a secure web portal for authorized users will be implemented through the ICMS.

“The initial launch of this service is scheduled for late July/early August of this year and it will literally transform the way in which cases are commenced and conducted in all Divisions of the Court. The E filing portal will be introduced in the Magistrates Court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.”

“Other benefits of the ICMS will include better management by court officers of all aspects in the life cycle of a case via an electronic scheduling feature, the roll out of eNotifications and messaging, the ability to pay online, fees and process payments through the ICMS and access to the digital recording and transcript software through the ICMS.”

The Chief Justice also noted that in December, 2020 the contract was signed with ZCom, the successful vendor in the procurement exercise for the Digitization Project. “Members of their team are already in Nassau to commence work. “I have established a new Digitization Unit in the Judiciary which is headed by Mrs. Grace Bostwick.

We have secured premises for the ZCom team and the members of the new Digitization Unit in Charlotte House and they are expected to move into the newly renovated and customized office space by the end of the first quarter of this year.

He explained that ZCom will be responsible for digitizing court records and the in- house Digitization Unit will deal with documents and records going forward. This project is closely aligned to the ICMS and will ultimately facilitate the migration from a heavy dependence on paper to a reliance on data where information will be managed as opposed to tracking paper. Court documents and dockets will be digitized and input into the ICMS to provide real time access to court files.