Caribbean Court of Justice judge retires because of ill health

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

RETIRED: Former CCJ judge Jacob Wit. – Photo courtesy the CCJ

Justice Jacob Wit, a judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), has retired on the grounds of ill health. A member of the court’s inaugural bench, Justice Wit served in the CCJ for the past 18 years.

His health has been adversely affected since October, a CCJ press release said on Thursday.

CCJ president Justice Adrian Saunders said, “This is a sad day for the court, especially since Justice Wit and I formed part of the inaugural bench (back in 2005).

“He was the lone civil-law judge on the current bench with rich experience in military law, administrative law, constitutional law, and international human rights law. His involvement with the CCJ’s Academy for Law and his role in co-ordinating the academy’s most recent biennial conference and regional town hall (meeting) focusing on crime, are recognised and deeply appreciated. I will certainly miss him and his contributions.”

Wit studied law from 1971-1977 at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) of Amsterdam, from which he took the degree of Meester in de Rechten (Master of Laws) with honours.

After completing his military service (1976-1978) as a second lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Navy, he was admitted in March 1978 as a judicial trainee at the Studiecentrum Rechtspleging (Training and Study Centre for the Judiciary) in Zutphen, the Netherlands, where he was enrolled until 1984.

During this period, he held the posts of Griffier (law clerk) in the Rotterdam District Court, Rotterdam, (1978-1980) and plaatsvervangend Officier van Justitie (deputy prosecutor) at the Amsterdam District Court (1980-1982). He worked as an attorney with the Van Doorne & Sjollema law firm in Rotterdam (1982-1984).

He was appointed deputy judge of the Rotterdam District Court in January 1984, judge of the Rotterdam District Court in March 1985, and judge of the Joint Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba on October 1, 1986.

Between 1986 and 2005,  Wit presided over or sat in the Court of Appeal, but mainly in the Courts of First Instance.

Wit was sworn in as a judge of the CCJ, at President’s House, St Ann’s on June 1, 2005. In November 2010, he was appointed president of the Constitutional Court of St Maarten – a part-time function.

As of April 2023, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana and St Lucia have replaced the Judicial Committe of the Privy Council, based in London, with the CCJ, which these five countries recognise as their highest and final appeal court. Trinidad and Tobago, where the CCJ is based, still recognises the Privy Council as its final appellate court.