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:

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.



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.

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

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


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

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

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

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


(The Gleaner, November 29, 2002).

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

[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)].

[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)].

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:



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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