Apart from when it sits as an appellate court from the lower courts or other tribunals (usually statutory, quasi-judicial), this court is a Superior Court of Record of First Instance, having unlimited jurisdiction in both criminal and civil matters. As such it exercises within the Cayman Islands similar jurisdiction as is vested in or capable of being exercised in England by Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice and its divisional courts.
Judges of the Grand Court are appointed from amongst persons who must have the same qualifications as are required for appointment to the English High Court of Justice or Courts of equivalent jurisdiction throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Grand Court was first created as a court of special limited jurisdiction by statute in 1877. In its present modern form, the Grand Court was established by the Grand Court Law of 1975, and enshrined as a Constitutional Court in 1984.
The Chief Justice has responsibility for “all matters arising in judicature.” By this means and by the other statutory and constitutional processes which establish and separate the Courts from the Legislative and Executive arms of Government, the separation of powers and independence of the Judiciary is formalized.
In addition to the purely judicial functions, the Chief Justice , or a designated judge acting in an administrative capacity, is also the Central Authority for the purposes of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The treaty was entered into between the United States and the United Kingdom on behalf of the Cayman Islands in 1986.
The Cayman Islands’ status as a leading international offshore banking and financial centre often generates actions before the Grand Court involving complex issues and substantial assets. The domestic business of the Court is also varied and often complex, including the work of the criminal, family, common law and civil jurisdictions. Grand Court judges either sit alone or with a jury of seven (12 for murder and money laundering trials). When hearing civil matters, judges usually sit alone. The Grand Court hears both civil and criminal appeals from the Summary Court.
Although the Grand Court is in session throughout the year, its formal ceremonial opening takes place early in January, on which occasion the Chief Justice presents his annual report to the public on the work of the Courts and the Attorney General and other leaders of the profession address the Court on matters of concern to the profession and the practice of law in the jurisdiction. Jurors are summonsed to serve for a complete session of two months.
The Annual Reports on the business of the Courts are available here.