On May 5, 2017, Supreme Court Justice Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the Registrar-General’s decision to reject a marriage application from a same-sex couple was discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, declaring that “same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act”.
The case had been brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche, who took their case to the Supreme Court after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns, arguing that the Human Rights Act (the “HRA”) took primacy in Bermuda and protected their right to marry. “The facts of this case are relatively simple and straightforward,” Justice Simmons wrote in her introduction. “The Applicants are both male. Each states by affidavit that they met in Canada, the home of the second Applicant, and started dating in 2015. They both love Bermuda, the home of the first Applicant. It is their wish to be married in Bermuda irrespective of their gender as recognition of the feelings that they have for one another.”
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In January of this year, Alan Dunch and I appeared before Justice Stephen Hellman in the case of Earlston J. Astwood and Others v Bermuda Electric Light Company Limited and Ascendant Group Limited  SC (Bda) 13 Civ (16 February 2017) in a three-day trial in which we acted for 109 Plaintiffs fighting to protect their health insurance benefit.
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We have previously written a post about the Supreme Court’s decision in Bermuda Press (Holdings) v Registrar of the Supreme Court in which the Chief Justice considered the public’s right of access to court documents in a constitutional matter deemed to be in the public interest. The Court then issued Practice Direction (“PD”) No. 23 of 2015 (discussed here) late last year which widened the scope indicating that members of the public were then entitled in civil cases to apply for copies of (1) the originating process and (2) judgments and orders in civil and commercial matters.
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In October 2016, the Department of Statistics released its “Facts & Figures 2016” which sets out in summary form some of the key indicators of Bermuda’s economic and trends.
There are some important points to note from that report. For example, the number of local companies is steadily increasing year on year from 3,125 in 2013 to 3,307 in 2015. In addition, international companies in Bermuda are also growing in number with exempted, exempted partnership and non-resident companies on the rise from 2013 through 2015.
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The employment tribunal system was established to provide an employee the regime in which to make a formal complaint that their employer has violated the Employment Act 2000 (the “Act”). The process was designed to encourage the parties to settle their differences wherever possible. If the parties cannot reach an agreement and there are reasonable grounds to suggest the employer may have violated the Act, the parties proceed to the Employment Tribunal for a hearing which lacks the sometimes daunting formalities of the courts. The trouble with the process in Bermuda is that over the course of the last several years, the Act has been interpreted in such a way as to limit the role of the Employment Inspectors, pushing many, if not all complaints, through to the Employment Tribunal. This erodes important principles of justice and the pendulum has swung so far toward due process for the employee that parties are no longer on equal footing.
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