Caribbean Visionary Educators

Westmin James – Youngest Judge on the Caribbean Community Administrative Tribunal

Westmin James – Youngest Judge on the Caribbean Community Administrative Tribunal

Westmin James is an attorney-at-law, university lecturer and author, who was recently appointed as the youngest judge on the Caribbean Community Administrative Tribunal. After living in less than comfortable accommodation as a child, this thirty-nine year old product of Laventille believes that there is “never one way to get to a goal. Sometimes it takes closed doors to get you to where you should be.” This is Westmin’s journey:

I am the product of a Vincentian mother and a Trinidadian father. My mother and my father, each had four other children besides me. For most of my childhood and teenage years, I lived at Dundonald Hill, Long Circular and Eastern Quarry, Laventille with my mother and siblings. I spent a few years in Couva with my father. That change of scenery was eye-opening in many ways.
Growing up, money was always a challenge. As a child (and to this day), my mother cleaned houses and took care of children for a living and my stepfather was a security guard. We lived in a one-bedroom place with a partial dirt floor and no indoor conveniences. You can well imagine how that may have been. As the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility and had to take care of my younger siblings. Notwithstanding our financial situation, I had a happy childhood.
After primary school, I went to Mucurapo Junior Secondary School. I cried all the way home when I received my Common Entrance results. It was a major disappointment for me. I, however, was adamant that I did not want to do the exam again, so I attended the school. While the natural progression may have been to Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive or any other like that, my grades allowed me to move to St. James Government Secondary where I did CXC. While I was excited to start at St James, I was at a disadvantage because my subject options were limited since I wasn’t previously exposed to some of the subjects that were offered. For A’ Levels, I went on to Tranquillity Government Secondary which had a new Sixth Form programme. The Principal at that time, Dr Mervyn Sandy took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity.

-No free ride
I entered The UWI in 2000. At that time, tertiary education was not free and I was ineligible for the Dollar for Dollar Programme, which started the year after. I left for Barbados on a hope and a prayer that I would be able to complete my education. My father found ways to pay my tuition but I still needed assistance with housing and food. I fell ill in my first semester at Cave Hill because I was not eating properly but I was able to obtain bursaries and scholarships due to my academic performance and these carried me through the rest of my time at Cave Hill.
I graduated from The UWI Cave Hill campus with a Bachelor of Law degree (first class Honours) and then headed to University of Cambridge, UK (on scholarship) where I successfully completed a Master of Law degree (Honours). On my return to Trinidad, I completed law school at the Sir Hugh Wooding Law School, graduated on the Principal’s Honour Roll and was a Moot Court winner.

-Law was my dream
It may sound cliché but I always wanted to be an Attorney. This dream was not motivated by family or even money: I saw it as a way to help others since I believed that law under- pinned everything in life. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend university so my parents gave me a lot of ‘leeway’ to chart my own course. They were supportive of my choices and listened to me when it came to my career.

-Help from many quarters
Given my family’s financial circumstances, I was quite fortunate to be able to reach as far as I did. I was supported by many people who believed in me and/or saw something special. From family, employers of my mother who provided financial assistance, teachers who gave me extra work and resources, friends who bought books for me while at university to lecturers who gave me opportunities to develop. Even relative strangers; they all helped. The kindness and support I received, paired with the mentorship from individuals like Douglas L. Mendes, have been the things that carried me through.
Due to the great support I received from so many individuals, I was happy when I was appointed as Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Law because it provided me with the opportunity to counsel many students in all aspects of their lives and help them overcome overwhelming challenges.

-Representation matters
As we have learnt with women, people of colour and people in the LGBTQ community, ‘Representation Matters.’ It is incredibly important for people to see people like themselves, doing the things they want to do and being successful. It helps them to believe that it is possible, that they matter and that once you put your mind to it, you can achieve almost anything and be anything.

My advice to a young man:
Nobody’s journey is ever the same and we end up where we should be in the end. You live in an age with lots of choices and new avenues for young people. You should take your time, explore, figure out what motivates you and do stuff that you are passionate about. When you figure that out what your path is, plot the best route to get there and go for it.
Westmin James’ accomplishments are too many to list but here is a summary. Since moving to Barbados to lecture at The UWI, Cave Hill in 2011, he has been the Deputy Dean for Postgraduate and Research, Deputy Dean for Academic and Student Affairs, was the recipient of the Principal Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2017-2018 and has co-authored a text titled Commonwealth Caribbean Law and Procedure: The Referral Procedure under Article 214 RTC in the Light of EU and International Law. He is also a part of The UWI Rights Advocacy Project of the Faculty of Law (URAP) as a Litigation Specialist.

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