Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira opened her final law year on Friday during a ceremony in Grenada, speaking about the importance of a continued commitment to technological advancements and justice reforms in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

The Virgin Gorda native, who in 2012 was appointed the ECSC’s first female chief justice, commended the court’s ability to adapt its operations in recent years during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The benefits of that work, she said, have continued beyond the health crisis.

“The increased integration of modern technological applications into our day-to-day processes has not only made us more efficient but has also adequately equipped us for effective crisis management,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of digitising the filing and case management systems through the e-litigation portal, known as the ELP.

“Having access to an electronic means of filing and managing cases was truly instrumental in preventing a near certain crippling of the court’s services during a time when being in close physical proximity was a danger to us all,” she said.

This progress has helped reduce case backlogs, increase clearance rates, and simplify the accessibility and management of case files, according to the judge.

BVI Bar rep

Several other lawyers from around the region also spoke during the sitting.

Among them was Peter Ferrer, a representative of the BVI Bar Association, who praised the court’s ability to continue operations amid the pandemic using the ELP and Zoom hearings.

“It has not gone unnoticed, I think, in the rest of the world how efficient the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has been,” he said.

The chief justice also spoke on recent developments in artificial intelligence and what they could mean for the legal profession.

AI, she said, might help in the production of transcripts, thereby enhancing “access to and the efficient delivery of justice in our region.”

However, she added that this innovation cannot be implemented right away since courtrooms currently lack the proper equipment and sound-controlled environment for recordings.

Dame Janice also warned of potential challenges of using AI in the courts, including difficulties verifying the authenticity of sources and evidence.

“Make no mistake: AI is here to stay,” she said. “What we at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court cannot do is to ignore either the benefits or dangers of AI, which is developing at lightning speed and being integrated in every aspect of our daily lives.”


Dame Janice also urged the governments of member states and territories to improve court facilities.

“A low point in my tenure as chief justice spanning over a decade has been the abysmal lack of progress by the governments in providing proper court facilities, which would enable the judicial branch, a coequal branch no less, to fulfill its mandate to the people of this subregion,” she said.

In the VI, courts continue to work out of temporary facilities, and ground has not yet been broken on a long-promised new Halls of Justice.

Mr. Ferrer also spoke about staffing challenges in the territory.

“The resourcing of the Commercial Court remains an issue which the territory is very, very much aware of with litigation at an all-time high,” he said. “And there is a strong case for three full-time judges if we can try and get as many as that.”

New rules

The chief justice also noted efforts made toward judicial reform over the past year, including the new Civil Procedure Rules Revised Edition 2023, which took effect last summer.

“The new amendments to the rules are expected to modernise and further streamline civil practice and procedure across the nine member states and territories by revising and incorporating provisions that further support our current legal and technological environment,” she said.

Additionally, the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee was established in March 2023.

“Culling from international best practices, the aim of this is to create a harmonised and comprehensive set of rules which will act as the foundation on which to build out other Criminal Court reforms for supporting robust case management, improved time standards, certainty, transparency, and equity in the criminal justice system,” Dame Janice said.

Ms. Vaughn reported this story from the United States.