CCJ Corner: CCJ Says No To Serial Litigation

Clyde Brown v Michelle Moore Griffith, Robin R. Moore, Basil R. Moore [2013] CCJ 6 (AJ), [2013] CCJ 12(AJ), [2014] CCJ 4 (AJ)

By Ivy O. Pitts: Norman Manley Law School

The case of Clyde Brown v Moore illustrates that an appeal does not mean ‘ask until you get what you want.’ Instead, in applications for special leave, the resources of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) are to be used by litigants who have a case that has some prospects of success.

In 2012 Michelle Moore-Griffith, Robin R. Moore and Basil Moore brought a claim against Clyde Brown for possession of land. Mr. Brown claimed that he acquired title to land through adverse possession, having lived there for over ten years. The trial judge and the Court of Appeal rejected Mr. Brown’s case because he did not present sufficient evidence of his occupation of the land. His application before the Court of Appeal to appeal to the CCJ also failed. Mr. Brown then went directly to the CCJ for special leave to appeal.

The CCJ refused to grant special leave because Mr. Brown did not show a realistic chance of success. He was seeking to overturn the findings of fact made by the trial judge and the CCJ applied the general principle that an appellate court will only interfere with findings of fact in exceptional cases.

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Counsel for Mr. Brown then applied to the CCJ for a rehearing of his application for special leave. The CCJ decided to hear the application but on written submissions without an oral hearing. Mr. Brown’s main argument was that there had been a breach of natural justice because he claimed that the panel of judges which heard his first application did not read his written submissions. The Court affirmed that it had “unfettered power to correct any injustice caused by an earlier order it has made.” However the application for a rehearing was dismissed as Mr. Brown could not establish either that he had suffered an injustice or that his written submissions were not read.

Counsel for Mr. Brown then again applied to CCJ for this decision to be set aside. This third application alleged a breach of international law, a deviation from standard judicial norms, procedural irregularity and a breach of natural justice, mainly due to the CCJ’s use of written submissions instead of oral submissions. After an oral hearing, the Court ruled that this application was an abuse of process “designed to clutch at straws” in another attempt to reopen the case. The Court also referred to rule 8.1 and 9.6 (c) of its Appellate Jurisdiction Rules to show that it could determine any application based only on written submissions. The CCJ emphasised that there must be finality to litigation. It ordered that no further applications could be filed by Mr Brown on this matter without the permission of the Court and that Counsel representing Mr Brown pay costs of the application.

This summary is intended to assist the Caribbean public in learning more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a formal document of the Court. The judgments of the Court is the only authoritative document and may be found here, here, and here.

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