When Marston C. D. Gibson came to the United States from Barbados in 1987, he was looking for a fresh start, a change of scenery, something new.
Mr. Gibson parlayed the legal training he had received in the Caribbean and England into nearly a two-and-a-half-decade career in the New York State court system. His highlights include serving as the law secretary for William C. Thompson, the former appellate court justice (and the father of the former New York City comptroller). Mr. Gibson was later a court attorney and referee in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan. For roughly the past 13 years, he has been a special referee in State Supreme Court in Nassau County.
Now, Mr. Gibson, 57, is capping his legal career by going home.
He was recently named the chief judge of Barbados, a position he will assume on Sept. 1. His last day in the Nassau County court is Friday.
As chief judge, Mr. Gibson will hear cases and be the top administrator of the court system in Barbados. His title is technically chief judge of the High Court, which is the country’s top trial court, and president of the Court of Appeal, which hears the first appeal of cases. The top appellate court for the Barbados legal system is the Caribbean Court of Justice, which sits on the island of Trinidad, in the republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Mr. Gibson’s primary challenge as chief judge, he said, will be to help facilitate the implementation of new civil procedure laws that the country passed in 2008.
“Part of the challenge that I see is going to involve breathing life into those rules,” he said. “Most of the judges are accustomed to the older rules, and we are not getting into the new rules. I suppose I have a bit of an advantage because the concepts in the rules are very familiar to me.”
That is because many of the new rules are similar to those that have long been in effect in New York, Mr. Gibson said. The new rules include things like alternative dispute resolution, summary judgment and provisions for the use of referees instead of judges, Mr. Gibson said.
As a referee, Mr. Gibson has dealt with civil court cases. Referees sit in courtrooms like judges and hear cases and oversee trials. One difference is that sometimes, instead of deciding cases, referees issue a report to a judge, who then decides the case. Referees do, however, decide some cases, Mr. Gibson said.
Another difference is that referees do not have the same legal support structure as judges. They do not have law clerks or secretaries and, therefore, must do their own legal research when drafting opinions, he said. To that end, he said, he will be able to relate to judges in Barbados, who also do not have clerks and secretaries to help them.
“One of the big-ticket items for me is to try to give some thought to how I can get them some assistance, so that they can concentrate on judging and have some assistance with their research and their writing,” Mr. Gibson said.
Not everyone is happy to see Mr. Gibson take the helm of the judiciary in his home country.
Some people in Barbados protested his appointment because he had spent so much time away. There was a law on the books that the chief judge had to have at least 15 years of experience practicing in a commonwealth country; it was changed to allow Mr. Gibson to take the job.
Mr. Gibson said that he first got a call last year asking whether he was interested in the job. At the other end of the phone was Freundel Stuart, who was then a deputy prime minister and is now the prime minister. Mr. Gibson said he and Mr. Stuart had known each other for many years.
Mr. Gibson said he believed that his qualifications got him the job.
“They knew me and they knew of me,” he said. “They knew of what I was doing.”
John Eligon and other court reporters for The New York Times take you inside the city’s halls of law every Friday. Have a tip? Send an e-mail message to [email protected].