Further to the recent discovery of toxic mold at the Supreme Court Registry (as discussed in a previous Blogpost), the Registrar has issued another Circular, dated Friday 21 October 2016 (but only circulated to the Bermuda Bar on Monday 24 October 2016), announcing the temporary closure of the Registry (and Supreme Court Number 3) to members of the public with immediate effect.
The closure has also been announced on the Bermuda Government website as follows: “Due to the latest news about mould affecting the Supreme Court Registry, the Registry is closed until further notice“. https://www.gov.bm/
With effect from Tuesday 25 October 2016, the Registry will be temporarily located in the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building on the 3rd floor (home of the Supreme Court Family Division and the same building as the Magistrates’ Court).
For ‘urgent’ Court filings on Monday 24 October 2016, Counsel and members of the public have been asked to contact the Assistant Registrar by email – although the Circular does not make clear whether or not Monday 24 October 2016 is to be treated as a day on which the Registry is formally closed (for the purposes of reckoning time, for example, under the Rules of the Supreme Court 1985 or the Limitation Act 1984).
The full Circular Notice is available here: pd-22-of-2016-notice-of-toxic-mold-and-relocation-of-supreme-co-4
It is understood that the closure was precipitated by a protest on the part of Registry staff in reaction to their difficult working conditions (which were only confirmed by the toxic mould inspection and testing).
The Circular Notice recognizes that the closure will “necessarily impact on the general administration of the Registry and the Judiciary. However, the health and safety of Registry staff and members of the public is of priority. The continued understanding and patience of the members of the Bermuda Bar Association and the general public will be required“.
Although the Registry does not provide ‘life or death’ essential services like an A&E department or the Police and Fire services, it would be unfortunate if the Government and the Judiciary were unable to come to a satisfactory arrangement, as a matter of urgency, for the Registry to be re-housed on a permanent basis in premises that are fit for purpose (and mould-free, so far as possible).
Even a short delay in the administrative treatment of Court files has an incremental impact upon the final determination of each piece of litigation, and there might be a number of cases where filing deadlines or limitation deadlines, or judicial decisions, are negatively impacted by an unexpected closure of the Registry.
The longer the problem goes on, the larger the backlog is likely to become: and a demoralized Registry staff is unlikely to provide the highest quality of service to litigants and members of the public.
Bermuda’s reputation as an international financial centre and sophisticated legal jurisdiction is also at stake.