Justice Kennard hailed as an ‘iconic jurist’ at special sitting of Full Court
By Richard Bhainie
Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, the late Justice Cecil Kennard was Wednesday hailed as an ‘iconic jurist’ who was ‘jurisprudentially versatile’ and helped to mould Guyana’s legal fraternity; Kennard died at age 86 on March 12, 2022.
These sentiments were shared by distinguished members of the legal profession at a special sitting of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature, held particularly to pay tribute to the life and work of the late Justice Kennard.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall, S.C, reminded of Justice Kennard’s elaborate, comprehensive judgments which are to date being used as precedents by judges but also his “humility, simplicity and compassion” which enabled him to connect with the ordinary man.
“His writing was not of the style of prose, picturesque expression or linguistic flair and flamboyance. It was one of crystalline clarity, simplicity and fluent coherence that rendered his legal reasoning easily discernible,” Nandlall said.
The Attorney General emphasised that there is no doubt that Justice Kennard has left his “indelible print” on the fabric of Caribbean jurisprudence, highlighting that his passing is a true loss to Guyana and the legal fraternity which he helped to mould.
Following in the same vein, Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards noted that Justice Kennard’s rulings were clear, concise and to the point and that law reports are replete with a number of landmark decisions he has penned.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, S.C, told the sitting that “service above self” and “commitment” were “mantras” of Justice Kennard who dedicated his life to the development of the jurisprudence of Guyana and served the country with distinction and always espoused equity.
“When one reads his judgments, one would realise that Chancellor Kennard believed in simplicity of language and therefore exemplified what has become the newer thinking as regards communicating legal issues i.e keep it as simple as possible,” she said.
“A soft spoken person who did not suffer fools gladly, he was always respectful of his colleagues and counsel … there is much to emulate from his respectful manner of engagement with colleagues, counsel and litigants alike,” Justice George added.
Tributes were also paid by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack, S.C; Edward Luckoo, S.C and K.A. Juman-Yassin, S.C, all of whom shared similar sentiments.
The late Justice made his entry into the legal profession in 1962 in the county of Berbice, where he hailed from, after reading for his law degree at Lincoln’s Inn in the United Kingdom.
Three years later he joined the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) as a Crown Counsel and he continued to serve as a State Counsel after Guyana gained its Independence in 1966.
Between 1971 to 1973 he served as Police Legal Advisor before accepting an invitation from then Governor General to be appointed as a prosecutor in Antigua and Barbuda in 1974 before returning to Guyana in 1977 and being appointed as a High Court judge.
In 1985 he was appointed a Justice of Appeal and subsequently Chief Justice in 1995 before ascending to the pinnacle office of Chancellor of the Judiciary in 1996 where he served until 2002 and was appointed Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority in the same year where he served for 15 years.
Outside of his professional pursuits, Justice Kennard was an avid lover of the horse racing sport, and even owned his own racetrack at Bushlot – the Kennard Memorial Turf Club.