The Judiciary of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas

The basis of the Bahamian Law and legal system is the English Common Law tradition.

Justices of the Supreme Court, Registrars and Magistrates are appointed by The Governor-General acting on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

The Judicial and Legal Service Commission comprises five persons with the Chief Justice as Chairman.

The Chief Justice and the Justices of the Court of Appeal, including the President, are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

Once appointed, the salaries and other terms of appointment of the Chief Justice, Justices of Appeal and Justices of the Supreme Court cannot be altered to their disadvantage. Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age of 65 years and, where agreed among the judge, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, may serve until the age of 67. Justices of Appeal can serve until the age of 68 years and, where agreed among the judge, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, may serve until the age of 70 years.

The law of The Bahamas makes provisions for the appointment of 12 Justices to the Bench of the Supreme Court, inclusive of the Chief Justice, and for five Justices of the Court of Appeal, inclusive of the President. The Chief Justice, as Head of the Judiciary, is ex officio, a member of the Court of Appeal; however, he/she only sits at the invitation of the President.

The Legal Process

Proceedings are instituted in the name of the Queen in the Supreme Court and in the name of the Commissioner of Police in the Magistrate's Court.

The Magistrate's Court hears summary matters or indictable matters, which may be heard summarily. Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrates have jurisdiction to impose a maximum sentence of five years. They also conduct preliminary inquiries in indictable matters to determine whether a prima facie case has been made against an accused person. If a prima facie case is made out, the accused is committed to the Supreme Court to stand trial.

If the person is tried and convicted in the Magistrate's Court, an appeal lies to the Supreme Court or to the Court of Appeal, depending on the nature of the offence.

An appeal may lie from the Court of Appeal to the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council, which is the highest Court of Appeal in The Bahamas.
Civil cases are generally heard by a Judge alone.

Appeals from final judgments of the Supreme Court in civil cases lie as of right to the Court of Appeal, and with the leave of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in some interlocutory matters or further appeals from Tribunals.

Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrates can also hear and determine Civil cases if the amount claimed does not exceed BS$5,000.00.

Appeals lie to the Supreme Court.


The Registrar heads the day-to-day administration of the Courts and sits to hear interlocutory applications, taxations and assessment of damages. The Registrar is supported by three Deputies, one of whom serves as the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, and an Assistant Registrar along with the judicial support staff.

Dress Code 

Lawyers are required to wear dark clothing with wig and gown in open Court and dark business clothing in Chambers in the Supreme Court.

Persons wishing to view the court proceedings in The Bahamas must adhere to the dress code. Casual dress is permitted, but sports dress is not.

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