By Christopher Tobutt & Editorial Team
Former Chief Justice Sir Anthony Smellie was lauded with glowing tributes during a ceremony in his honour on Monday January 16th marking his retirement after long and distinguished service in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
A special Valedictory Ceremony was held to commemorate what has been termed as Sir Anthony’s “monumental career in the Cayman Islands judicial administration” in which he “played an integral role in advancing the legal profession here on our shores,” according to a government statement noting the occasion.
Sir Anthony, a native of Jamaica, served as a judge of the Grand Court for nearly 30 years, nearly 25 of which as Chief Justice.
Prior to relocating to the Cayman Islands in 1983, he functioned as Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions in Jamaica. He was invited by the Cayman Islands Government to serve as senior Crown Counsel and subsequently served as Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General for 10 years before he was invited to join the bench in 1993.
Attorney General Sam Bulgin spoke of Sir Anthony’s “social conscience, sense of civility and professionalism, along with his wide-ranging interests.”
Addressing the broad scope of the former Chief Justice’s role in jurisprudence in the Cayman Islands, Mr Bulgin said: “His advocacy in the courts and international forum...it was those efforts together with others that helped lay the foundation for what is now our envied international financial services industry.”
Speaking of Sir Anthony’s transition from the bar to the bench, the Attorney General spoke of the former Chief Justice’s “ability for instant articulation of an argument, his clear and full attention to detail of the case, his strident support for the concept that for every wrong there should be a legal remedy, his unquestionable sense of impartiality, integrity, propriety, his demonstrable ability for equality, fairness, confirmed his eligibility for such a high office in the public service.”
“He has been a visionary, transformational and impactful,” Mr Bulgin concluded.
Shân Warnock-Smith KC described Sir Anthony as “Not only one of Cayman’s greatest judges but one of the world’s greatest judges and I say that without any sense of overstatement…I lecture and speak to many judges and international judges from all corners of the world when I mention the Cayman Islands it engenders without exception a universal response of respect. Respect for its people, its court system, and the guardian of that court system, Sir Anthony as Chief Justice.”
Cayman’s present Chief Justice, Margaret Ramsay-Hale praised Sir Anthony particularly for his “understanding of the complexity of family relationships and the ability to treat those relationships with sensitivity.”
Responding to the tributes, Sir Anthony stated: “It’s the sort of moment that makes one feel entirely justified in having committed one’s life to public service. I guess it is ultimately the respect of those you serve, and how you are regarded by your peers and those who know you that is of reward and significance.”
Noting the changes that have taken place in the administration of justice during his time in the jurisdiction, the former Chief Justice observed that “the sum of what we have is a fairly modern and efficient system, one that allows us to meet the current demands of the ever-increasing case demand from here in Cayman and abroad.”
However, in his parting words, Sir Anthony went on to note: “But the administration of justice is a work in progress and so we may not rest on laurels”, and he commended his successor Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale for her commitment to “to raise the bar”.
Sir Anthony concluded by reflecting on Section 107 of the Cayman Islands constitution, stating: “It is that revision which by dint of the wisdom and insight of the Caymanian people uniquely mandates that the other branches of Government shall provide adequate resources for the judicial branch. I implore our partners in Government to take it to heart.”
For former Chief Justice Smellie’s valedictory ceremony, the Grand Court chambers were filled with well-wishers including His Excellency Governor Martyn Roper, Honourable Premier Wayne Panton and members of the Cabinet, Members of Parliament, representatives of the legal profession, and other specially invited guests.
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