This briefing is directed towards both foreign lawyers who may
need to instruct Jersey law firms and use the Jersey courts and
local clients who whilst themselves familiar with the court system
may have clients or potential clients who would like to understand
the basics of its structure. This briefing focuses on the civil
side of the court system and on the Royal Court, which is the
principal court in the jurisdiction.
The Royal Court and the Appellate Courts
The Royal Court has four different divisions, Probate (for wills
matters), Family, Héritage (for matters concerning
immoveable property), and Samedi (for the remainder of cases),
although they are not physically separate nor do different judges
sit within them. Apart from a Matrimonial Registrar, the judges do
not specialise in a particular field and the Royal Court simply
sits as a particular division to hear a particular case. Most cases
are dealt with in the Samedi Division, which deals with all cases
not allocated to the other divisions. For example it is in the
Samedi Division that commercial and trust cases are heard. As an
offshore jurisdiction, the Royal Court is particularly experienced
in dealing with trust related disputes and trustee applications for
The Court of Appeal, which sits six times per year hears appeals
from the Royal Court in both criminal and civil cases. From the
Court of Appeal, the highest court to which appeal may be taken is
the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England.
The administrative functions of the Royal Court are performed by
the Judicial Greffe which provides the court clerks and produces
the Acts of Court (orders) after hearings. The Master (see below)
sits within the Judicial Greffe. The Viscount's department is
the enforcement arm of the Royal Court. Officers of the Viscount
are the official process servers within the Island. Also, if a
judgment is obtained but remains unsatisfied, a party can obtain
enforcement through the Viscount who has the power to distain
There are three full time judges of the Royal Court, the
Bailiff, Deputy Bailiff and the Master. The present office holders
are Sir Phillip Bailhache, Michael Birt, and John Wheeler
respectively. The Master (also referred to as the Judicial
Greffier), tends to sit as judge on interlocutory and case
management hearings. The Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff are the main
trial/substantive hearing judges. The
Bailiff has constitutional functions in addition to his judicial
role, and so it is the Deputy Bailiff who hears a larger number of
the cases which come before the Royal Court for determination.
There are also additional judges known as Commissioners. These are
judges brought in on a case by case basis. They tend to be English
Q.C.s or former Royal Court judges.
For the great majority of cases, the trial judge sits to hear a
case with two Jurats. The Jurats, of which there are a panel of
twelve, are not lawyers and are elected from the Island community
by an electoral college. In civil cases the Jurats are the judges
of fact, and make the findings of fact at a hearing. The judge
determines the questions of law.
The judges of the Court of Appeal are senior English silks,
including Michael Beloff Q.C. (President), Jonathan Sumption Q.C,
Peter Smith Q.C., Sir John Nutting Q.C., David Vaughan QC, Dame
Heather Steel, Michael Jones QC, Geoffrey Vos QC, James McNeill QC,
John Martin QC, plus the Bailiff of Guernsey, Geoffrey Rowland.
The lawyers who appear before the Jersey Courts are called
Advocates. These days, the vast majority have first qualified as
solicitors or barristers in England and have re-qualified in Jersey
by taking the local exams.
Only locally qualified lawyers have rights of audience before
the Jersey courts. However, lawyers at Ogier are experienced in
working together with lawyers from different jurisdictions as part
of a team, as is often necessary in multi-jurisdictional
The Jersey Government, known as the States, has its own legal
team called the Law Officers' Department. It is headed by the
Attorney General and his deputy, the Solicitor General. They, or a
lawyer nominated by them, appear on behalf of the States in matters
concerning the States or its Ministers, including proceeds of crime
and regulatory matters.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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