Hall of Justice Port-of-Spain
I’VE been a civil litigation lawyer for a little under two decades. And like clockwork, every year around this time my colleagues and I start to feel an all too familiar sensation of “running on fumes.”
We’re exhausted from a full year of work and eagerly anticipate a timeout.
Prior to Covid-19, we’d have about two more weeks to run before the law term ends in July. Then we’d get a wonderful breather of six weeks called the “long vacation” when the Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeal) closes, so we have a fixed opportunity to rest, relax and regenerate before the new law term begins again in mid-September. Sadly, not so this year… nor last year.
In June 2020, legal notices were passed amending the rules of court, causing the long vacation for 2020 and 2021 to be suspended. (See for example Legal Notice No. 113 of 2020 – available online).
The long vacation (as well as the two weeks in December and April every year that the Supreme Court closes), coincides with the time our school children go on vacation. This works very well to schedule meaningful time to be spent with our children, whether at home or abroad.
Now let me clear this up in case you are wondering – just because the Supreme Court is closed doesn’t mean lawyers all close office and go home. Not at all! It just means lawyers have the opportunity to use that time to schedule their own vacations, while the Supreme Court is closed. (Magistrate Courts remain open all year, due to the nature of the work they do.) Work continues, but it is generally understood that since much of the profession uses this time to unwind, give their staff time off etc., work may slow down until the law term re-opens in September.
Suspension of the long vacation for 2020 and 2021 has indeed been frustrating. While travelling abroad was not possible, the pandemic severely limited options to find rest and unwind from the stresses of the job and of life. It’s almost impossible to schedule any meaningful time-off from work, since I’m constantly getting Court Notices of hearing dates, directions to be complied with etc., not all of which I have any power to get shifted around to accommodate my schedule.
It seems those in authority have intentions of permanently removing the long vacation. I put myself on record as saying this would be disastrous. We have a system that works. It facilitates a co-ordinated period of mental health breaks for the judiciary and the profession while balancing the need to get work done – why interfere with that?
Our Law Association (our elected body that, among other things, seeks our interests) upon being notified of this intention, conducted a survey in May 2020 to find out from its members whether we support a permanent abolishment of long vacation. Ninety-three percent of the members who participated in the survey were not in support of this move. However, 70% supported suspending the long vacation for 2020 only, due to the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19.
Despite the views of the profession, the long vacation was suspended for both 2020 and 2021 and there is yet no word on whether they will move ahead with a permanent abolishment. I hope and pray good sense prevails and the long vacation remains intact and untouched. Be safe T&T!
Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a
Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
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