The new law year traditionally opened in September each year with Special Sittings in the nine Member States and Territories of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The court year previously ran from September to July.
ECSC Chief Justice Her Ladyship, the Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, said the court has “broken with tradition out of practicality” based on the increasing challenges of a changing climate.
“As you know from experience, the month of September happens to be the peak of the hurricane season and the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other adverse weather systems affecting our region cannot be denied,” Chief Justice Pereira stated while delivering remarks commemorating the start of the new law year.
While addressing government officials and members of the legal fraternity at the court in Antigua and Barbuda, as well as those in other OECS Member States and Territories, who joined via video conference, the chief justice reflected on weather-related challenges faced over the past three years.
She explained that in September 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated Antigua’s sister island of Barbuda and the territories of Anguilla and the Virgin Islands. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria ravaged the Commonwealth of Dominica forcing the cancellation of the Ceremonial Opening of the Law Year. Then in September 2018, the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac impacted plans for the 15th Regional Law Conference that was held in St. Kitts.
“We certainly cannot prevent hurricanes,” the Chief Justice stated. “They are very much a part of our lives in this region. However, we can adjust to lessen their impact. The court, therefore, made the decision to have the law year follow the calendar year and mark the official opening in January.”
Honourable Pereira added that the only noticeable change to the court’s schedule is the new date of the ceremonial opening. The law year now runs from January to December. The theme for the opening of the 2020 Law Year is “A New Era for the ECSC: The Road to Achieving Court Excellence.”