On March 16, 2015, Mr. Barry Leon will take the place of Judge Edward Bannister as the Acting High Court Judge of the Commercial Division of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, assigned to the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
Judge Bannister, an extremely well-respected jurist who has held the position since the commercial division was established six years ago, is an English barrister by training, and many of the attorneys who frequent the ECSC predicted that his replacement would be either from England or the British Virgin Islands. Instead, the new High Court Judge hails from Canada. Mr. Leon is currently a partner and head of the International Arbitration Group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP in Ottawa.
It remains to be seen how the changing of the guard at the BVI High Court will impact the cases heard in the commercial division; however, parties litigating in the BVI would be wise to prepare for an increased emphasis on arbitration in that jurisdiction. The BVI Arbitration Act just became effective last fall as part of an effort by the BVI government to position the BVI as an international arbitration center, and the appointment of an internationally known arbitrator could certainly be seen as an effort to reinforce that initiative. In any event, parties who have become accustomed to Judge Bannister’s style and judicial philosophy should be ready for a culture shift this March as the new High Court Judge makes his mark on the court.
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