Chief Justice Ian Kawaley paid tribute to the legacy of Julian Hall this week, while marking the official opening of the travelling exhibit marking the 400th Anniversary of the establishment of Bermuda’s Courts.
Addressing invited guests at the unveiling of the exhibit at the General Post Office on Tuesday, Justice Kawaley pointed up court cases in the 20th century that highlighted Bermuda’s judicial history. Those cases included the Fisher case, led by the late Julian Hall, that went all the way to the Privy Council in London. “Criminal lawyers tend to be the stars of the judicial system,” said Justice Kawaley.
The landmark case put Bermuda on the international judicial map and firmly established Mr Hall’s reputation. In the words of the now defunct Bermuda Sun, the case established Mr Hall “as a fighter for social justice and a formidable figure in the courtroom”.
The case centred around the Fisher children, who had been removed from their school and ordered to leave Bermuda by the Bermuda Department of Immigration. Mr Hall took the case all the way to the Privy Council, which ruled that the Jamaican-born Fisher children, who had moved to Bermuda to join their mother after she married a Bermudian man “belonged to Bermuda”, and were therefore entitled to Bermuda status.
The precedent setting ruling was handed down in 1977, and is still the subject of legal study material to this day.
Highlighting key periods in the Court’s history, Justice Kawaley noted that the first Court of Assize was held on June 15, in 1616, where St Peter’s Church stands today in St George’s. The courts were moved four years later in 1620 to the State House.
“That’s where the forerunners of the Magistrates Court sat,” Justice Kawaley said, while lamenting the fact that there are no pictures of that court today.
Jokingly, he told the small gathering of invited guests, including Senior Magistrate Juan Wolffe, that the courts are now housed in the Dame Lois Brown Evans Building, “making Juan Wolffe the envy of Bermuda’s judges”.
He also commended Postmaster General Wayne Smith, and Facilities Manager Sheridan Ming for providing space for this display on the Letter Floor of the General Post Office.
Mr Smith, in his welcoming remarks, recalled how retired Puisne Judge Norma Wade Miller approached him last year on what they could do to commemorate the Court’s 400th Anniversary. He also encouraged residents to come and see the display now on exhibit at the General Post Office in Hamilton.
The travelling exhibit highlighting four centuries of continuous court service was unveiled at the World Heritage Centre in St George’s last month. It will be moved. to the west end at the Commissioner’s House in Dockyard next month.
A spokesperson said: “It is an opportunity for all Bermudians to reflect on the depth of our legal roots and to learn lessons from the past. It allows us to better appreciate how our courts, laws and legal system have evolved, and how we can shape their future identity.”
The exhibit includes stories and images on the anniversary theme: ‘Striving for Justice and Equality Before the Law for 400 Years’. And members of the public are encouraged to come out to view this exhibit.
By Ceola Wilson
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