Legal System
The Bahamian legal system is based on English common law, which, since 1964, has been complemented by an American type of constitutionalism which declares the existence of certain fundamental principles that are to be observed and enforced. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution. Article 15 of the Constitution concisely states these principles;
"Whereas every person in the Bahamas is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedom of the individual, that is to say, has the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the protection of the public interest, to each and all of the following namely -
(1) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law; 
(2) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association; and
(3) protection for the privacy of his home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation;          
     
 the subsequent provisions of this chapter shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to the aforesaid rights and freedoms subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the said rights and freedoms of any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest."
Legal Profession and Organisation of the Bar                                                                        
As of December, 2000 there were approximately 587 lawyers qualified to practise at The Bahamas Bar, 246 females, 341 males and about half possessing more than ten years experience.
 
Every lawyer entitled to practise in The Bahamas is properly styled a "counsel and attorney", and is an officer of the Supreme Court. All persons admitted to practise collectively form the Bahamas Bar Association (BBA). The Bar Council, the executive body of the BBA, has responsibility for deciding whether an applicant for admission to practise is qualified.
 
The statutory qualification for admission to practise is -
(1) a call to the Bar of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Eire, or of such other country as may be specified;
(2) admission to practise as a solicitor in any of the above countries; or
(3) receipt of a Legal Education Certificate from the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies.
Applicants who meet requirements (1), (2) or (3) above, must also serve for 12 months under the tutelage of a lawyer in actual practice in The Bahamas before being admitted to practise. All applicants for admission to practise must be Bahamians, and must not have been disqualified or suspended from practice in the courts of any place outside The Bahamas.
The Bar Council may agree to the special admission of a person who is not a Bahamian for the purpose of conducting particular proceedings so long as the person is qualified as above. Also, a person entitled to practise before a court of unlimited jurisdiction in any country may become a "registered associate" and agent of a counsel and attorney.
 
Any person, not admitted to practise, who acts as counsel and attorney is guilty of a criminal offence.
 
Legal Education                                                                                                                         
The Council of Legal Education of the West Indies is the regional body to which most of the English-speaking territories in The Caribbean subscribe. The Council consists of the Dean of the Faculty of Law, representatives of the Bar, the judiciary and principals of the Law Schools. The Council operates three law schools, one in Jamaica - the Norman Manley Law School, in Trinidad and Tobago - the Hugh Wooding Law School and in The Bahamas - the Eugene Dupuch Law School.
The qualification for admission to any of the law schools is the possession of a University of the West Indies law degree or a law degree of a University or Institution which is recognised by the Council and the successful completion of an examination set by the Council. The Legal Education Certificate is awarded after satisfactory completion of the two year program, or in the case of persons who possess law degrees from other jurisdictions, completion of the six month conversion program. 
 
Courts of Justice 
Magistratesí Court                                                                                                                      
These are courts of first instance. There are seventeen (17) Magistrates Courts in The Bahamas: fourteen (14) in New Providence; two (2) in Freeport, Grand Bahama; and one (1) in Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama.
Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrates must have been members of the English, Irish, Scottish or Bahamian Bar and have practised for at least five (5) years. The Governor-General acting on the advice of the Judicial Legal Service Commission appoints the Chief Magistrate and two Deputy Chief Magistrates. Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrates are ex officio Magistrates for The Bahamas.
A Magistrate has jurisdiction to try all summary offences, investigate all charges of indictable offences and to hear and determine any civil cause where the amount to be recovered or the value of the property in dispute does not exceed $5,000.00, unless a statute provides jurisdiction in relation to a higher amount, as is the case in a number of regulatory statutes e.g. the National Insurance Act.
 
Various juvenile and domestic matters are also heard in the Magistrates' Court.
 
The Industrial Tribunal                                                                                                               
The Industrial Tribunal comprises (3) members appointed by the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission. The Tribunal has the power to hear and determine trade disputes, register industrial agreements, hear and determine matters relating to the registration of such agreements, make orders or awards and award compensation on complaints brought and proved before the Tribunal.
 
The Supreme Court                Practice notes                                                                                   
This is the second highest court in the country. The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and not more than eleven and not less than two Justices of the Court. The Chief Justice is appointed by The Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by The Governor-General on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.
A Justice of the Supreme Court may hold office until the age of sixty-five years and no later than sixty-seven years with the permission of the Governor-General on the recommendation of The Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
A Justice of The Supreme Court  must be a counsel and attorney and a member of the Bahamas Bar for at least ten years or a member of a Commonwealth Countryís Bar and have practised for at least ten years. The Supreme Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in civil and criminal causes and matters and an appellate jurisdiction conferred on it by the Supreme Court Act, 1996 or any other law, which includes appeals from the Magistratesís Court.
 
Court of Appeal                                                                                                                                   
The Court of Appeal consists of a President, the Chief Justice who, as head of the judiciary is an ex officio member of the Court and sits at the invitation of the President, and not less than two and not more than four Justices of Appeal. To qualify as a Justice of Appeal one must either hold or have previously held a judicial office. The Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgements, orders and sentences made by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal also has jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from matters in a magisterial court in respect of indictable offences triable summarily on the grounds that -
(i) the court had no jurisdiction or exceeded its jurisdiction in the matter;
(ii) the decision was unreasonable, could not be supported by the evidence or was erroneous in point of law;
(iii) the decision of the magistrate or the sentence passed was based on a wrong principle;
(iv) some material illegality occurred affecting the merits of the case; or 
(v) the sentence was too severe or lenient.
At the apex of the court hierarchy for The Bahamas is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council serves as the ultimate Court of Appeal in all matters where appeal is permissible. The Judicial Committee consists of the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Chancellor, ex-Lord Presidents, the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and such other members of the Privy Council as from time to time hold or have held high judicial office and two other privy counsellors who may be appointed by the sovereign.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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