The superior courts of record are the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court (High Court), Revenue Court, and the High Court and Circuit Court Divisions of the Gun Court. The lower courts of record are the Parish Courts. There are also specialized courts operating at the level of the Parish Courts, such as the Family Courts, Traffic Court, and Parish Court Division of the Gun.
The Court of Appeal is the highest superior court of record in Jamaica. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Supreme Court, Revenue Court, High Court and Circuit Court Divisions of the Gun Court, Parish Courts and other lower courts and Lay Magistrates’ Courts in statutorily prescribed circumstances. The Court of Appeal also hears appeals from courts martial, and The General Legal Council, the disciplinary body for Attorneys-at-law entitled to practice law in Jamaica. The Judges of the Court of Appeal are the President, the Chief Justice (by virtue of being the head of the judiciary) and twelve (12) other Judges of Appeal. The Chief Justice may only sit in the Court of Appeal to hear appeals upon the invitation of the President of the court and with at least four (4) other Judges of Appeal sitting.
The Supreme Court exercises unlimited original jurisdiction in criminal, civil and constitutional cases. The Supreme Court also exercises appellate jurisdiction in matters on appeal from decisions of the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Lay Magistrates’ Court. Additionally, the Supreme Court exercises supervisory jurisdiction over Coroners’ Inquests and decisions of administrative bodies such as the Industrial Disputes Tribunal. The Judges of the Supreme Court are the Chief Justice (the President and Chief Judge of the Court, and the head of the judiciary), a Senior Puisne Judge, forty (40) Puisne Judges and eight (8) Masters (Judges in Chambers).
Jamaica has fourteen (14) parishes, and each parish has a Parish Court, which exercises limited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters. The courts for the parishes of Kingston and Saint Andrew are combined to function as one court with jurisdiction for the Corporate Area. As a result, there are thirteen (13) Parish Courts with over forty (40) stations (smaller courts/ outstations) in townships across the island. Each Parish Court is presided over by a Judge of the Parish Court. A Chief Judge of the Parish Courts has overall administrative responsibility for the Parish Courts, subject to the directions of the Chief Justice, to whom he reports directly.
The other lower courts and specialized lower courts of record are presided over by either a Judge of the Parish Court or by judges exercising the same jurisdiction as a Judge of the Parish Court.
The Lay Magistrates’ Courts hear very minor criminal cases and, like the Parish Courts, are located in each parish. These courts are presided over by Justices of the Peace, who are lay persons appointed by the Governor-General upon the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.