Court of Appeal

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Court of Appeal
Pic-courtofappeal.jpg
Court of Appeal Building, Kingsbury
Established 1 April 1842
Composition method Nomination by the Judicial Appointments Commission with appointment by HM The King
Authorised by
  • Court of Appeal Ordinance[1]
  • Judicature Act[2]
Term length Mandatory retirement at 75
Number of positions 6 (plus 1 ex-officio)
President of the Court of Appeal
Currently The Lord Wilkes
Since 20 April 2010

The Court of Appeal is Guelphia's penultimate court of record and its court of final appeal. It is the upper division of the Supreme Court of Justice, the lower being the High Court. The Court of Appeal consists of the Chief Justice of Guelphia, the President of the Court of Appeal and five other permanent Justices of Appeal. The President is responsible for the day-to-day operation and administration of the Court, subject to the direction of the Chief Justice. As the senior member of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Justice may ask judges of the High Court to sit as members of the Court of Appeal to hear particular cases. The seat of the Court of Appeal is the Court of Appeal Building in Kingsbury.

History

Background and formation

The foundation of Guelphia's judiciary can be traced to the earliest days of settlement. The Supreme Court had been established from amongst the first pieces of legislation passed by the Parliament in February 1836[3], followed by Ordinances establishing Courts of General and Quarter Sessions, and also Courts of Requests. Initially, the Supreme Court was the court of final appeal, with the King-in-Council able to hear some limited matters pertaining to the prerogative of mercy and clemency. Within five years, it became apparent that the Supreme Court could not handle the workload put before it, and after a brief commission of inquiry, it was decided that a wholly separate court of final appeal should be established.

With the passage of the Court of Appeal Ordinance in 1841, the Court of Appeal was established, and formally commenced operations on the 1 April 1842. The Ordinance permitted the appointment of the Judges of the Supreme Court to be the Judges of the Court of Appeal, with separate appellate judges (the modern Justices of Appeal) not appointed until the passage of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act in 1882[4], with Lord Wolseley appointed as the first President of the Court of Appeal. At the same time, the Attorney-General, Sir Marcus Dodds, advised that some changes were necessary in the interests of the Crown and of justice in the fledgling kingdom. Dodds recommended to the King that a second senior law officer was required to carry out a range of duties that he could discharge alone. The Executive Council agreed, and approved the appointment of a Solicitor-General to commence work on the same day the Court of Appeal was established.

Souring relationships

With various amendments, the function and powers of the court and it's officers were amended and adjusted over time to suit the evolution of the judicial system and cope with an increasing population. Throughout this period, the Court remained wholly apart from the Supreme Court. The separation went so far as to include the construction of an entirely new building to house the Court when it relocated to Kingsbury in 1885. This division of jurisdiction was common for many court systems around the world, but uniquely for Guelphia, the relationship between the two courts was a cause of tension from the start, but became worse after the appointment of separate Justices of Appeal after 1882. The formation of the Court of Appeal was resented by some Supreme Court judges, who felt that they should remain the highest court in the land under the King. As a result, the independence of the courts from one another was jealously guarded. Over time, the relationship between the courts was seen by many as being an impediment to the sound administration of justice in Guelphia.

Bourchier reforms

The separate nature of the two courts remained throughout the late nineteenth century and in to the first decade of the 1900s. The issue of keeping the courts as wholly separate became an increasingly vexed issue, with jurisdictional rivalries and escalating court costs making the effectiveness of the Court severely diminished. In several cases, the Court of Appeal overturned decisions made in the Supreme Court by way of particularly harsh judgements directed toward their colleagues in the lower court, an act that was responsible for causing much friction between the courts. While ever there was a strong Chief Justice, these issues could be held in check by sitting on cases and dealing reasonably with the previous judgements being heard on appeal. On several occasions however, a particularly weak or absent Chief Justice made the relationship between the courts intolerable.

The sustained political pressure forced the Conservative Justice Minister, Geoffrey Bourchier, to instigate the unification of the Court of Appeal with the Supreme Court to form the Supreme Court of Justice[5]. The appellate jurisdiction of the new Court was still vested in the Court of Appeal, with the old Supreme Court reformed as the High Court. As with the old courts, the Chief Justice remained an ex-officio officer of the Court of Appeal. Initially, the Act provided for three Justices of Appeal, one of whom would serve as President of the Court. The number of Justices was increased to four in 1920, five in 1950, and the current number of six in 1970.

Recent times

In more recent times, the focus of the court has become more even handed. Furthermore, there have been repeated attempts at reducing the time it takes for each case to be heard, with changes to practices in reviewing the judgements of lower courts, and tidying up the procedure for hearing cases in an effort to reduce times from weeks in the 1950s to mere days by the 1990s. There has also been an attempt to reduce the cost to litigants that taking an appeal to it's final stage can place upon them.

Function and jurisdiction

The sole purpose of the Court is to exercise an appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. The Court possesses no original jurisdiction, and therefore does not deal with matters as a court of first instance. In general, the Court hears civil appeals from decisions of the High Court made in the exercise of the latter's original and appellate jurisdiction, that is, decisions on cases that started in the High Court as well as decisions that were appealed from the various subordinate courts to the High Court. However, this rule is subject to various restrictions. Some types of High Court decisions can not be appealed to the Court of Appeal, while others may only be appealed if the Court grants leave. Where criminal matters are concerned, the Court only hears appeals from cases originating in the High Court. Criminal matters heard by the High Court on appeal from a subordinate court cannot be further appealed to the Court of Appeal, though questions of law may be submitted to the Court for determination.

Under the principles of judicial precedent, Court of Appeal decisions are binding on the High Court and the various subordinate courts. As Guelphia's final appellate court, the Court of Appeal is not required to follow its own previous decisions and the decisions of predecessor courts, and may depart from or overrule such decisions if it thinks fit. However, it will generally not do so without a strong reason. The Court of Appeal is required, however, to abide by decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Executive Council in certain situations. The Constitution of Guelphia states that where the Sovereign has referred to the Committee a question concerning the Constitution's effect on a bill, no court – including the Court of Appeal – may subsequently question the Committee's opinion on the bill or, assuming the bill is found to be constitutional, the validity of any law based on the bill. In addition, matters of clemency and pardon, which are heard by the King-in-Council, are also referred to the Committee, and the Court of Appeal is required to abide by the decisions made by the Sovereign through the Committee.

Appeals

Appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Executive Council are extremely limited. Generally, appeals from the Court of Appeal involve activating the constitutional interpretation jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee. The avenue for such an appeal exists only when the Court of Appeal itself or the Attorney General certifies that a point of law of exceptional public importance needs to be resolved.

The other jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee, that being the power to advise the Sovereign on matters of clemency and pardon, are activated automatically once any such appeal is made. The Court of Appeal has no power to prevent such an appeal being made, although it's findings will be reviewed by the Judicial Committee, and may influence the advice the Judicial Committee formally gives to the Sovereign.

Judges

Qualification

There are presently six Justices of Appeal; the President of the Court of Appeal and five other puisne justices. They serve alongside the Chief Justice, who serves as an ex-officio member of the court.

Judges of the Court of Appeal are made members of the Executive Council upon their appointment to the Court, enabling them to serve as members of the Judicial Committee of the Executive Council and entitling them to the style The Right Honourable. Because all members of the court are appointed to the Executive Council, that style is usually omitted.

The Constitution of Guelphia mandates that all Justices of Appeal, along with all other judges and magistrates in Guelphia retire at 70 years of age. The number of Justices of Appeal is also limited by statute, with the Judicature Act limiting the number of Justices of Appeal to the present number of five.

Procedure

Three judges, sitting as a panel, normally hear an appeal in the Court of Appeal, reaching a decision by a simple majority. When an application is made for an appeal to the court, a single judge will usually preside at the hearing.

Dress

Judges of the Court of Appeal wear a court coat and waistcoat worn with bands beneath a black silk gown and a bench wig.

References and notes

  1. Court of Appeal Ordinance (Ordinance No. 27 of 1841).
  2. Judicature Act (Public Act No. 9 of 1912). §62.
  3. Supreme Court Ordinance (Ordinance No. 3 of 1836).
  4. Appellate Jurisdiction Act (Public Act No. 14 of 1882).
  5. Judicature Act §3.

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