In Memory of the Honourable Mme Justice Désirée Bernard by Sir Dennis Byron

The passing of Her Ladyship causes reflections on the many persons whose lives she touched and to whom I express my condolences. Though her illness over the last couple years interrupted communications with her, the news of her passing has evoked a lot of emotions. I think of her much loved daughter, Carol Ann, her extended family, the people who she mentored and assisted. My thoughts are also with the staff and co-workers in the many institutions she served and led, in Guyana, in Trinidad at the Caribbean Court of Justice, in Bermuda as a Court of Appeal judge, the legal profession throughout the Caribbean, and the Anglican diocese of Guyana and its congregations of which she was Chancellor, the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank, and her many loved ones. I express my condolences, but this is not a time for sadness because she lived an extraordinary life, and the memories of her accomplishments are inspirational and evoke pride in her admirers. Justice Bernard was a testament to the high quality of Caribbean intellectualism, integrity, and work ethic. Her life brought credit to her family, her native country Guyana as well as the wider Caribbean and I salute her as one the most outstanding people I have had the honour to know. Justice Bernard’s journey was one of courage, resilience, and determination. Born at a time when female lawyers and judges were uncommon, she defied the odds and pursued a career in law, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of women to follow in her footsteps, not only by her example, but also by founding organisations to support and drive their interests. Her pioneering spirit and unwavering commitment to justice earned her the admiration and respect of her colleagues. She was a trailblazer, a woman of integrity, a brilliant jurist, a judicial administrator, a judicial educator, one of the Caribbean pioneers in the development of judicial case management, an international advocate, and a leader in judicial thought. In short, she was extraordinary. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed several stages of her journey. I first met Désirée Bernard through our membership and participation in the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA) during the early stages of its existence. She made important interventions at meetings and it was not long before she inevitably became the President of OCCBA. After making her mark in private practice, Justice Bernard entered the judicial service of Guyana, where she functioned at every level, Magistrate, Judge, Appeal Judge, Chief Justice, and Chancellor of the judiciary. Her excellence as a jurist, her integrity, her work ethic, and leadership qualities propelled her meteoric rise. Her judicial leadership modernised her national judiciary, using judicial education seminars and improving all aspects of justice delivery. Her contributions to the development of Caribbean jurisprudence extended beyond her national borders as she was an important part of an era of innovative and productive regional judicial cooperation, highlighted by annual retreats of the Caribbean Heads of Judiciary, which focused on the exchange of knowledge and ideas for the development of our respective judiciaries. During this period, she engaged in many activities and organisations aimed at societal improvement, and was drafted into international service as a United Nations rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against women and as an adjudicator at the Inter-American Development Bank’s Industrial Tribunal. It came as no surprise when I learned that she had been selected as one of the inaugural judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice. Her scholarship, her integrity, the record of her judgments, and her broad collection of legal lectures and essays told their own story, marking her as one of the leading jurists of our time. I too joined the CCJ where I had the opportunity to work with her. She was an exceptional colleague, hardworking, brilliant, and conscious of the role of the Court in the development of Caribbean jurisprudence. She contributed significantly by the judgments that she authored and in those that she did not author, she provided valuable assistance with her critical analysis and insightful and thoughtful input during deliberations for the resolution of disputes and exposition of the law. Many of her scholarly contributions are memorialized in the book she published, in which I was honoured to write the preface, commenting that reading the essays was an enthralling experience. But Justice Bernard’s legacy extends far beyond her professional achievements. She was a compassionate and generous soul, always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. Whether it was mentoring young lawyers, advocating for the rights of the marginalized, or supporting charitable causes, she embodied the principles of justice, empathy, and kindness. She also understood that the law is a powerful tool for positive change and used her position to advocate for the most vulnerable members of society such as women and children. Her unwavering dedication to equality, fairness, and human rights inspired us all to strive for a more just and equitable world. Though the Caribbean has lost one of its greatest stalwarts, let us remember her with gratitude for the profound impact she has had on our lives and our region. I am confident that her legacy will live on in the contributions she made to the development of jurisprudence, the timeless ideas she expressed, the countless lives she touched and the people she has inspired. Let us honour her memory by continuing the work she began, advocating for justice, equality, and human dignity for all. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Sir Dennis Byron,

Choc Villa, Choc Ridge, Marisule, St. Lucia Email: Tel: 1-758-484-1616 Sir Dennis Byron.

Leave a comment

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)