The recent Arizona assassination of District Court Judge John Roll and attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords should prompt us to start taking our Judges’ security seriously.

In the toxic political landscape that is Arizona, an attack on a Democrat who opposed Arizona’s harsh immigration laws could’ve been predicted.  Investigators theorize she was the assassin’s target.  Yet, the Judge, who saw her talking to two constituents about medicare and reimbursements and walked up to her to say “Hi”, was shot first and died on the spot.  In the melee, six persons were killed including a nine year old.

The Judge could easily have been a target having handed down unpopular decisions in immigration cases and being the recipient of death threats.  Now we’ve seen what can happen to Judges to our South (Colombia, where Appeals court Judge Carlos Ernesto Valencia was shot dead just hours after upholding an arrest warrant for accused Medellin drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar); East (Italy, Magistrate Judge Paolo Borsellino was killed in Palermo by a mafia car bomb in 1992 after accusing Silvio Berlusconi of having links to the Sicilian Cosa Nostra; just two months before, his friend and fellow anti-mafia magistrate Giovanne Falcone was also killed) and North (Arizona), when are we going to do something about protecting our own Judges who are far more at risk.

We’re fully aware that underworld elements will kill Judges who uphold arrest warrants for drug kingpins; who accuse political leaders of links to organised crime; or who hand down decisions out of tune with the prevailing political imperatives.  Any lessons for Jamaica?  In Jamaica, our Judges regularly hear criminal cases involving serious charges; pronounce severe sentences up to and including the death penalty on convicts standing a few feet away marking every Judicial feature.  Unlike our politicians who have extensive security details at their beck and call, Judges are assigned an orderly who is often a very junior police officer barely able to drive a car much less protect that Judge.  Judges don’t have security details at home where they must regularly sleep alone and unprotected since their job doesn’t lend itself well to much social interaction.

In an important Sunday Observer expose on January 2, security concerns at the Supreme Court were highlighted but nobody seemed to understand that a Judge’s security needs don’t suddenly trip in when he or she is at the court.  Our Judges need 24 hour security details and, in that regard, should at least be treated as well as the spouses of some Ministers.

But the Observer’s most shocking revelation was the absolutely disgraceful statement from Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, the on-again-off-again lawyer for Christopher Coke.  The Observer reports:

But at the same time, Tavares-Finson……………said that justices                      should be equally blamed for the ‘untenable’ security situation at                          the Supreme Court.

‘…They accept what is given to them by the authorities,’ said the                         attorney. ‘The day that they say they are not going to sit in a                              vulnerable situation, that is the day [things] will change’.

Well, blow me down!  This has to be the Guy Lombardo Show.  If Finson has been correctly quoted, then this could be the most irresponsible statement from a government legislator since Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” on September 30, 1938.  Of course, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia (“Sudetenland”) the next day.  Instead of doing his best impersonation of a Tea Party loon from Arizona, Finson needs to say exactly what he expects Judges to do to improve their security situation.  What can they do?  Is he suggesting that Judges go on strike?  Really?  And jump up and down in front of TV cameras shouting “WE WANT JUSTICE!”? Really?

So, he must tell the nation what he thinks that he, as a Government Senator, can do?  Statements like this from legislators like Finson are what drive the majority of Jamaicans to the desperation of a “plague-on-both-your-houses” attitude to politics.  If there’s one national institution upon whose importance we ought to be able to agree it’s the court.  If there are one set of public servants whose security ought to be of legislators’ highest concern it’s the Judiciary.  Judges’ security oughtn’t to be the subject of cute sound-bytes or publicity seeking catch phrases.

But, I forget.  Our Judges aren’t really worth much.  They don’t come from England and don’t sit on the Privy Council.  There’s no “pure stream of justice” from them.  So what if some get shot?  No big deal. Let them strike if they want security!

Peace and Love.



  1. Johannah Says:

    If our legislators cannot even have a coherent and useful debate on matters before them and some continue to behave like louts why should they think that the security of our judges is of any import? When will we be able to elect a representatives to our Parliament that will take their responsibilities seriously? The TT has called Mr. Finson on his empty statement which i am sure is a reflection of the vacant mind which is taken to do the work of our nation. The oppressed peoples of the world have had it and they are talking now with the only weapon they have left. I personally would not want to see that happen again in this nation BUT nothing will change if we do not change!

  2. Delroy wallace Says:

    This “op-ed’ is right on. It is surprising to think that our judges are not given very complete security detail at home and at work.

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