• Senior Crown Council Susan Mulligan signs a condolence book for the late former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground.

    Senior Crown Council Susan Mulligan signs a condolence book for the late former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground.
    ((Photo by Mark Tatem))


Bermuda’s late former Chief Justice Sir Richard Ground, who died last month at the age of 64, was yesterday lauded at a packed special sitting of the Supreme Court.

Opening the session before 150 barristers, judges, staff and friends — as well as Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Dace — Chief Justice Ian Kawaley recalled Sir Richard as “an intellectual lightning bolt”.

“He was quite seriously one of the finest jurists that has ever graced the Bermuda Bench,” he said.

Sir Richard served as Chief Justice from 2004 to 2012. He was appointed to the Island’s Court of Appeal last year, but illness overtook him before he could assume the post.

Mr Justice Kawaley noted Sir Richard’s rapid ascent following his marriage to Lady Dace in 1986: he was selected as Attorney General of the Cayman Islands, and at the age of 44 was appointed to the Supreme Court of Bermuda.

“It was that leap — that is why we are all here today,” he added.

Sir Richard’s impact on the Island’s legal system brought in modernity — and efficiency — that greatly advanced the Island’s reputation as a jurisdiction.

“He was not an archetypal colonial judge here to boss the natives around,” Mr Justice Kawaley said.

Court of Appeal president Justice Edward Zacca remembered Sir Richard as “a leader who led from the front”.

Retired Commercial Court Judge Geoffrey Bell extolled Sir Richard’s gift for handling complex commercial matters, such as the Emlico case — or the notorious Thyssen-Bornemisza family case.

Although he didn’t hail from a commercial background, Sir Richard stewarded the 2006 establishment of the Bermuda Commercial Court — “a legacy which we will have for many, many years to come”, Mr Bell said.

Attorney General Mark Pettingill spoke of Sir Richard’s humour in private, but added: “When you appeared in front of Sir Richard, you had to bring your ‘A’ game.”

Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field hailed the former Chief Justice as a man of many gifts, noting: “It takes some qualities of a renaissance man to produce well-regarded books of natural history while working 24-7 as a successful lawyer.”

He added: “I can only say how very sad I am not to have the opportunity to stand before him in the Court of Appeal.”



Bermuda Bar Council president Justin Williams recounted Sir Richard’s impact on Bermuda law — authoring the new Supreme Court rules and clearing out the backlog of cases.

Barrister Narinder Hargun spoke of Sir Richard’s legendary courtesy to counsel who appeared before him — and the clarity with which he wrote judgments — while former Bar Association president Robin Mayor told the gathering: “His guidance and wisdom were always of great comfort to me.”

Sir Richard, she said, was an “even handed” jurist whose ability to understand the offshore model was “huge”.

And defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher praised his ability to act as “a stern father to many of the defendants who appeared before him — I always felt in those moments that he was giving 100 percent of himself and 100 percent respect to the defendant’s humanity”.

The 2006 amendments to the Supreme Court’s rules are still known by many as the Ground Rules, lawyer and former Bar Association head Rod Attride-Stirling said — and lawyer Wayne Caines drew laughter with a recollection of confessing to Sir Richard his bungling the court recordings in his days as a clerk.

Sir Richard had already discovered the mistake, Mr Caines said — and wrote his summation from his own notes.

“He was firm but he was fair; he conducted affairs without fear or favour. Jurisprudence in Bermuda is better, it is stronger, as a result of his leadership,” Mr Caines added.

“I would go so far as to say that Bermuda is a better place as a result of his sojourn.”


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