The Jamaican Bar Association – Forty Years of Service, 1973-2013

Donovan C. Walker

 … The independence of the legal profession constitutes an essential guarantee for the promotion and protection of human rights and is necessary for effective and adequate access to legal services…  (IBA Standards for the Independence of the Legal Profession, 1990).

Scan0126-1The Jamaican Bar Association (JAMBAR) was incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on Tuesday, January 16th 1973. JAMBAR is a voluntary organisation for attorneys-at-law in Jamaica. For forty years the important mandates and objectives of JAMBAR have been undertaken with the intent of remaining relevant and impactful. These include:

  • ensuring the independence of judges and attorneys-at-law
  • being a “watchdog” and fight for the maintenance and strengthening of the rule of   law and human rights
  • working with all stakeholders towards proper law reform and the improvement of our legal, justice and court systems
  • offering services to those in need or requiring our aid and protection
  • ensuring our attorneys receive continuing legal education in keeping with the new requirements for mandatory continuing legal professional development; and
  • promoting the integrity and good name of the legal profession in Jamaica.

The above serves as JAMBAR’s beacon for service to the Jamaican society and the justice system.


With the fusion of the legal profession there was no longer a need for separate representative bodies for barristers and solicitors. Accordingly, the respective affairs of the Law Society of Jamaica and the Bar Association were wound up, and JAMBAR was incorporated to represent the affairs of both branches of the profession. The first registered office of JAMBAR was situated at 11 Duke Street, and since 25th January, 2001 was re-located to its present location at 78-80 Harbour Street.

In 1973, the first directors of JAMBAR were Ramon Alberga, Bruce Barker, The Hon Dr Lloyd Barnett, OJ, Cedric Barton, Gefrard Bourke, James Bovell, Douglas Brandon, Keith Burke, Dennis Daly, George Desnoes, Adolph Edwards, Horace Edwards, Noel Edwards, Ewart Forrest, Norman Hill, QC, Douglas Judah, Hon Shirley Miller, OJ, QC, Hon David Muirhead, OJ, Frank Myers, Hon Carl Rattray, OJ, Hon Leacroft Robinson, OJ; and Lt. Col H. St. Whitehorne, OD, MBE, JP.


Scan0126-2JAMBAR is administered through a council comprising 20 elected representatives including the executive members, namely, the president, vice-president, secretary, assistant secretary, treasurer and assistant treasurer. The council meets monthly, and there is also a monthly meeting of the executive members.  There are sub-committees including those of the continuing legal education; social affairs and outreach; commercial, conveyancing, criminal practice and procedures; and civil practice and procedure and family law.  These sub-committees assist JAMBAR in achieving its goals and objectives.

Membership is open to all persons who are licensed to practise as attorneys-at-law in Jamaica and who are of sound character. The applicants must be at least 21 years old, citizens of the Commonwealth, have no criminal convictions, have satisfied the General Legal Council that they are of sound character, possess the bachelor's degree in law from a recognised tertiary institution,  and possess the legal education certificate from the Council of Legal Education through one of the three law schools in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Applications for membership to JAMBAR must be submitted to the JAMBAR council for consideration.  More recently, JAMBAR has opened its doors to students enrolled at the Norman Manley Law School or any law schools established by the Council of Legal Education, to become affiliates. The Association is served by a professional staff at the registered office which presently comprises a general manager and three other permanently employed members.

JAMBAR Presidents

JAMBAR Presidents comprise leaders of the legal profession, all committed to the growth and development of same.  The following distinguished attorneys-at-law have served as president:

Douglas J. Judah (1973-1975)
Dr the Hon. Lloyd G. Barnett, OJ (1975-1976 and 1991-1995)
Douglas Brandon (1976-1977)
Norman Hill, QC (1977-1978)
Dennis V. Daly, QC (1978 – 8 months)
Keith C. Burke (1978-1984)
Lt Col H. St. C. Whitehorne, OD, MBE, JP (1984-1988)
The Hon Frank G. Phipps, OJ, QC (1988-1991)
C. Dennis Morrison, QC (1995-1999)
Derek Jones, (1999-2001)
Hilary Phillips, QC (2001-2004)
Arlene Harrison-Henry (2004-2006)
John Leiba (2006-2008)
Jacqueline Samuels-Brown (2008-2011)
Ian Wilkinson, QC (2011-2014).
Donovan Walker (2014-2016)
Sherry Ann McGregor (2016 to present)



Sub-committees of JAMBAR

Scan0126-3Several sub-committees of JAMBAR have been actively involved in law reform and improvements in the practice of law. In particular, the Civil Practice and Procedure Committee, the Criminal Practice and Procedure Committee, the Commercial Law Committee, the Publications Committee, the Continuing Legal Education Committee, and the Conveyancing, Intellectual Property, Constitutional and Telecommunications Committee have been very involved.  For example, between 2001 and 2002 JAMBAR was actively involved in making numerous submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the then proposed revised Jamaican Companies Act. Also, The Civil Practice and Procedure Sub-committee of JAMBAR was active in discussing, suggesting revisions and promoting the Civil Procedure Rules in 2002.

Bench and Bar Consultative Committee

The JAMBAR executive meets periodically with members of the judiciary, led by the Chief Justice and the President of the Court of Appeal, to discuss matters in the interest of promoting justice and the administration of same. 

Proposing and Commenting on the Selection of Attorneys-at-law for the Inner Bar

Bar Council will nominate and or provide (whenever requested) JAMBAR’s views on  applicants who are being considered  for the taking of “silk”, and the proposal for elevation to the rank of Queen’s Counsel.

Selection of Judges

The Judicial Services Commission will seek the views of Bar Council on persons applying for judicial appointments.

Social Affairs

JAMBAR continues to have a vibrant and active Social Affairs Committee responsible for arranging the much anticipated JAMBAR Annual Banquet, lymes, parties and charitable contributions. The main aim is to foster camaraderie among members of the profession.


JAMBAR publishes periodicals for distribution among members of the profession with timely and important articles and information of assistance to legal practitioners

 JAMBAR and the General Legal Council (GLC)

JAMBAR nominates most of the GLC Council members for appointment to that body. For decades JAMBAR has worked closely with the GLC in hosting legal seminars for practitioners. Many JAMBAR members serve as GLC council members as well as members of the various committees of the GLC, including the Disciplinary Committee.

 JAMBAR and the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF)

JAMBAR was integral in the establishment and early operations of the DRF in 1994, and is proud of our continued association with that entity.

 JAMBAR and the Jamaica Stock Exchange

JAMBAR nominates a director to the board of the Jamaican Stock Exchange and ensures that its nominee has the requisite skills and knowledge to serve in that capacity.

 JAMBAR and the Caribbean Court Of Justice (CCJ)

JAMBAR has been actively involved in the process of the establishment of the CCJ and ensuring that it eventually become Jamaica’s final appellate court. The Association  has been actively involved in the process by having extensive and deep consultations with its members and the Jamaican Government.  The various positions proposed by JAMBAR  have been endorsed by its members in general meetings. In 2005, JAMBAR made submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament as regards the establishment of the CCJ.


I.          A Home for JAMBAR

Scan0126-4With the growth of the profession, it was felt that JAMBAR needed a permanent home from which administrative and operational affairs could be conducted. In 1989 JAMBAR Holdings Limited was incorporated, with its main object being the acquisition, development, maintenance and management of property at 78 Harbour Street, Kingston. While JAMBAR Holdings Limited is a distinct legal entity from JAMBAR, the property acquired by that company serves as the home for JAMBAR, the General Legal Council, and other entities.

II.         Protecting Fundamental Rights and Principles Necessary to Uphold the Proper Practice of Law as Illustrated Below.

  • In the important appellate case of Jamaican Bar Association v The Attorney General and The Director of Public Prosecutions – SCCA 96, 102 & 108 of 2003, JAMBAR ( argued successfully as regards the fundamental principles of legal professional privilege, and it was held (inter alia) that searches and seizures conducted at the offices of certain attorneys-at-law were in breach of legal professional privilege.


  • In 1999 the Jamaican Bar Association took the then Chief Justice and the Attorney General to court to quash a directive that would alter the court hours, as same was not considered and authorised by the Rules Committee. After a lengthy hearing before the Judicial Review Court, that court, on July 30, 1999 (by majority decision) found in favour of the Jamaican Bar Association that the chief justice did not have the legal authority to unilaterally alter the court hours and only the Rules Committee had the authority to make such a change to the court hours.
  • In 1997, JAMBAR issued guidelines to attorneys-at-law not to disclose client instructions or to show or hand over their briefs and instruction papers, as doing so would “…strike at the very foundations of the independence of lawyers and the confidentiality of the communications with their clients…” (The Gleaner – May 18th, 1997).


III.       Commenting and Acting on Important Legal/National Issues to the Public

Through various media releases and interviews, JAMBAR has sought to deal with various issues that impact the Jamaican society and our system of justice.  Below are just a few of the media reports and statements issued by, or on behalf of JAMBAR pertaining to various issues of national importance.

  • The Gun Court Act 1974 - DID YOU KNOW THAT if someone leaves a firearm or even a cartridge in your room or car you in danger of indefinite detention. DID YOU KNOW THAT you cannot appeal against a sentence of indefinite detention. YOU KNOW THAT A single Resident Magistrate without a Jury is the sole arbiter of whether you are guilty of crimes involving indefinite detention. DID YOU KNOW THAT In many parishes of Jamaica today the Police may search your home at will without a search warrant or any suspicion that you or any occupant is involved in any criminal activity. DID YOU KNOW THAT The Public is not entitled to be present at the Gun Court and the Press is in practice allowed to report anything about the evidence given at trials in the Gun Court … HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER It was necessary for Government to pass Legislation which presents such a threat to innocent persons. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER it was necessary to remove the discretion of the court to decide whether the circumstances of a particular case deserve the severest punishment? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WHETHER it was necessary for permanent Laws to be passed undermining your fundamental rights and freedoms in INDEFINITE DETENTION…?

[Extract from a public service advertisement published by the Jamaican Bar Association (et. al)   in (The Gleaner on May 30, 1974)].

  • The Council of the Jamaican Bar Association views with alarm the reported circumstances concerning the death of Courtney Irwin who is alleged to have stolen a motor car and detained at the May Pen Police Station. It was further reported that he was admitted to the Hospital in an unconscious condition with his body showing bruises and cuts and he died on Friday 17th November 1978. The Council also views with concern the circumstances leading to the death of ex private Anthony Williams a former member of the Jamaica Defence Force whose body was found in a crocus bag behind the St Andrew Technical High School at Bumper Hall in the Corporate Area. It has been reported that on the day before he was murdered a Policeman said that Anthony Williams was on a political wanted list. We desire to make it clear that we commend the Police in their vigorous attempts to stamp out crime in Jamaica and to apprehend the culprits… We exhort them in that regard. We call upon the Minister of National Security, the Minister of Justice and the Commissioner of Police to immediately order an impartial investigation of the circumstances leading to the death of these two persons….

Scan0126-5[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner, November 29, 1978)].


  • …In dismissing the third motion brought before it within a month the Court awarded costs against the attorneys who appeared personally. The Court ruled that it should be made clear that any further applications of a similar nature could be construed as contempt of court… A release from the Council of the Bar Association said … the Jamaican Bar Association notes with alarm certain aspects of the judgment … and we wish to express our dismay at the threat to the historic duty of counsel at the bar without fear to pursue the rights of citizens even in unpopular causes, which should be most jealously guarded in relation to custodial matters… We emphasize that the right of access to the court is fundamental for any citizen…

[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner, July 6, 1979)].

  • … The Council of the Jamaican Bar Association has described the recent amendment to the Income Tax Act which require companies to designate “responsible officers” to be jointly and severally liable together with the company for the payment of the company’s income tax as a “retrograde and ominous step” which could only lead to disruption in business activities and mass resignations of directorships… the council of the Jamaican Bar Association hereby registers its protest against legislation of this kind…

[Extract from a statement of the Jamaican Bar Association (The Gleaner on March 13, 1986)].

  •  … It is necessary at this time for the Council of the Jamaican Bar Association to state its belief in trial by jury in criminal cases and to reject any call for its abolition… In a system of trial without jury, the state would appoint the prosecutor, the judge of the law and the judge of the facts. There will be no reflection of the prevailing sense of justice in the populace in times of political excitement. This is how democracies are destroyed and dictatorships sustained…

[Extract from a statement by the Jamaican Bar Association(The Gleaner, April 11, 1986)].

  •  … The Jamaican Bar Association supports the call for an expeditious establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the recent events in West Kingston, possibly including persons from outside our jurisdiction. It is of utmost importance that we uncover the facts and have an independent assessment of whether the actions carried out on July 7, 2001 were in any part unlawful. It is of equal importance that we do not arrive at conclusions based on rumors and innuendos.

[Ms Hillary Phillips Q.C, July, 2001 (The Gleaner July 29, 2001)].


  • … The Jamaican Bar Association, in July of this year, stepped in, in an effort to curb the exodus of prosecutors from the Office of the DPP. At a meeting at Medallion Hall Hotel, St. Andrew, senior prosecutors outlined the problems they were facing in the department to… (inter alia) the President of the Jamaican bar Association…  

(The Gleaner, November 29, 2002).

  • … The Jamaican Bar Association has seen in the media that the Government of Jamaica and the opposition are about to embark on discussions on the steps to be taken for the establishment of a final regional Court of Appeal… we are duty bound to remind you that the Jamaican Bar Association in resolutions from 1991 to the present period has consistently invited the Government of Jamaica to promote public participation in all discussions and in the decision making process. This is so, as the issue so fundamentally affects the rights of all citizens… We call on you and the Government to involve the Jamaican Bar Association … in the critical discussions that must now take place…

[Mrs Arelene Harrison-Henry, February, 2005(Letter to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, The Gleaner February 27, 2005)].

  • … The Jamaican Bar Association objected to any scheme that would deny bail for sixty days, without a judge being able to exercise his/her discretion… Our primary concern with the proposed raft of legislation is the limiting or prescribing of the powers of the judges and when they come into operation and how they should operate…

[Ms Debra Martin, October, 2008(making submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on behalf of JAMBAR as regards various ant--crime bills, The Gleaner, October 20, 2008)].

  • Successive governments are to blame for the weaknesses in the justice system. The Jamaican government as a whole has abdicated its responsibility to the people by not committing any funds to justice over the years – make that decades… For a healthy society and economy Jamaica must have a properly functioning justice system. The tiny budget allocation is absolutely awful…

[Ian Wilkinson, QC, Oct, 2012(in the same speech he proposed a five-year plan for the justice system including allocation of an additional J$5-6 billion for justice issues)].

  • … The Jamaican Bar Association has expressed concern about what it calls the frightening level of violent crimes in Jamaica. The Association states that increasing crime can take the country into a perfect downward spiral where every sector suffers… the Association says the profile of crime in Jamaica leads to a reduction in and a withdrawal of local and foreign investments. The Bar Association argues that reduced investments means fewer opportunities for employment for young people; less tax revenue to provide for the justice system, education, housing, health and other social services. Additionally, it says fewer opportunities for employment mean more crime… no one in the society benefits from the unacceptably high crime rate…

Scan0126-6[Jamaican Bar Association Press Release, April 2013 (published and reported by several media houses)].

IV.       Continuing Legal Professional Development (CLPD)

For over 20 years JAMBAR has hosted hundreds of seminars and presentations on various matters germane to the legal profession and the practice of law. These seminars range from two hours in Kingston to weekends on the north coast, and workshops. With the advent of compulsory CLPD in 2013 JAMBAR has an important role to play in ensuring that our members are given the opportunity to attend seminars hosted by JAMBAR to assist in their satisfying the requirements of CLPD and, more important, in enriching their legal practices and pedagogy. 



Over the past 40 years the Association has presented awards to distinguished members of the Bench and the Bar. Included in the list of awardees are:

The Most Hon, Mr P.J. Patterson, ON, QC, MP
Mr Douglas Brandon
Hon, Mr Sydney Phillips
Hon, Mr Justice Ronald Small
Hon, Mr Douglas Fletcher, OJ
Hon, Mr Justice Kenneth Smith, OJ,
Lt, Col H. St. C. Whitehorne, OD, MBE
Hon, Mr Justice James Kerr
Hon, Mr Justice Ira Rowe, OJ
Hon, Mr David Muirhead, OJ QC
Hon, Mr Justice Boyd Carey
Hon, Mr. Vivian Blake, OJ QC
Mr Norman Hill, QC
Hon Frank Phipps, OJ, QC
Mr K.C. Burke
Mr Dennis Daly, QC
Hon Dr. Lloyd Barnett, OJ
Hon Mr Justice Karl Rattray, OJ
Mrs Angella Hudson-Phillips, QC
Hon Justice Patrick Robinson, OJ
Hon David Coore, OJ, QC
Hon Justice Henderson Downer
Hon R.N.A. Henriques, OJ, QC
Mr Crafton Miller
Hon Justice Edward Zacca, OJ
Hon Justice Ian Forte, OJ
Hon Justice Paul Harrison, OJ
Hon Emile George, OJ, QC
Hon Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe, OJ
Hon Frederick Hamaty, OJ
Ms Velma Louise Hylton, QC
Mr Dennis Goffe, QC
Ms Norma Linton, QC
Hon Justice Howard Cooke
Hon Justice Ferdinand Smith
Mr Christopher Bovell
Mr Howard Hamilton QC,
Mr Derek Jones
Hon Justice Karl Harrison
Hon Justice Marva McIntosh
Hon Hugh Hart, OJ
The Hon. Justice Hazel Harris
Ms. Nancy Anderson
Lord Anthony Gifford, Q.C.
The Hon. B. St. Michael Hylton, O.J, Q.C.
Mr. Trevor DeLeon



JAMBAR has an important role to play in: our jurisprudence and in advocating for strengthening the system of justice; being jealous and zealous guardians for the independence of practitioners and the judiciary; facilitating collegiate relations between attorneys; and fostering good relations between the bench and the bar. To be impactful on the Jamaican society, JAMBAR is striving to reach beyond insularity or being self-serving, lest it risk becoming irrelevant.

Recently JAMBAR has undertaken a number of initiatives.  These include:

  • The institutional strengthening at JAMBAR, seeking to make it more relevant to all attorneys-at-law in Jamaica.  With that in mind, JAMBAR has introduced proposals for new benefits to our members, among them:
    • group health insurance and retirement schemes through regulated and prudential providers
    • the creation of a research office and mini-library for use by all JAMBAR members to be located at the JAMBAR office; and
    • Group PI insurance for JAMBAR members, and
    • a recently implemented MOU with Scotiabank whereby that bank offers a suite of financial services for the benefit of JAMBAR members.


  • JAMBAR always has been a strident and resolute voice for the most vulnerable in society against oppressive conduct, urging necessary and legal reforms and legislative changes.  
  • JAMBAR will continue its work with all stakeholders to assist in the creation of a better justice system. Our various sub-committees review and suggest changes to our laws, legal practice and regulatory procedures that impact the delivery of justice and legal services that touch the lives of citizens in their family life, business life and with one another, the Jamaican government and foreign countries.


  • Improving communication on topical issues through greater use of the JAMBAR website, technology and social media.

We must never take for granted the role of an independent, fearless and courageous bar association. Stephen Saltzburg from the George Washington University School of Law correctly observes that “… as the world becomes more complex and therefore more dangerous, governments seek to limit individual rights in the name of crime control and/or national security. … We must always keep in mind that individual rights once lost are not easily regained. Accordingly, the unique and important role of an independent bar in protecting and defending liberty is more, not less, important than ever before… Lawyers and judges remind us that preserving the rule of law, often is a challenge requiring self-sacrifice and risk-taking, is something never to be taken for granted. If any good comes from governmental efforts to deny detainees lawyers, it is a reminder of the importance of an independent bar…” (Saltzburg, Stephen, A., “The Importance of an Independent Bar”. GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 282; Criminal Justice, Vol. 22, No. 4, winter 2008). 


The necessity for the continued work of an independent and proactive JAMBAR can be justified based on the observations by The Hon. Dr. Lloyd Barnett, OJ in 1999 in his address to the Carter Centre when he stated:

… Over the 50 years of representative government in Jamaica, it has been generally alleged and often assumed, without the substantiation of specific allegations and proven cases that a considerable amount of corruption exists in national affairs. The political experience is that the parties in opposition have usually accused the party in power of conducting a corrupt administration. Historically, when the accusing party has gained power and established Commissions of Inquiry to conduct a widespread investigation of the previous administration very little has been unearthed to substantiate the allegations ... The rumors are, however, too persistent and the statements made in private by reliable persons too frequent to ignore the allegations…”.


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