On Monday, June 11, 2012, David George Batts, distinguished member of the Class of 1978, received the designation of Queen’s Counsel from the Chief Justice of Jamaica, the Honorable Zaila McCalla. The “taking of the silk” is a rare honor that is bestowed on attorneys who have been acknowledged by their peers as having achieved the highest personal and professional standards in their profession and recognizes the superior quality of their work as an advocate.
David was born in Falmouth where he attended basic school until the age of 8 when, at the urging of his teacher, Ms. May Gilchrist, who saw great promise in him, he was sent to Iona Prep, a private boarding school in St. Mary. One year later, his parents, George and Clover Batts, made the decision to relocate to Kingston in order to provide David and his brothers, Neil, Martin and Garfield (all of whom also attended KC), access to better secondary education. His sister, Dawn, attended St. Hilda’s. He was enrolled in Shortwood Primary School where he quickly distinguished himself by placing second in his class that year. The following year, he passed his Common Entrance Exam on the first attempt and entered the hallowed halls of KC in 1973 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Batts excelled academically at KC and was also an avid football player. Classmates and lifelong friends, Wayne Spence, Michael Williams, Richard Bailey and Ricardo McPherson, all recall Batts as a student who displayed an unquenchable thirst for resolutions that would leave some teachers frustrated but nonetheless impressed. Christopher Hunt, another lifelong friend and football mentor to Batts, remembers him as someone possessing a quiet air of humility and an unassuming personality who earned the “teacher’s pet” label for his keen interest in English Language and Literature. By the time he entered sixth form, he had clearly established himself as a quiet intellectual who could be counted on to answer any and all questions in class, regardless of the subject matter, much to the relief of many of his less prepared classmates.
Lincoln Wilson, KC Headboy from 1979-1980 (a self-confessed “less prepared classmate”), who was also a member of the KC Schools’ Challenge Quiz team, had the following to say: “I know that I speak for the entire Class of 1978 when I say how proud we are of our brother David. He has been a central unifying force in keeping our class connected and continues to be a passionate and respected champion of justice and equality for all Jamaicans. We are truly blessed to call him friend and now Q.C.”
After leaving KC in 1980, Batts enrolled in the University of the West Indies initially intending to become a teacher. However, at the urging of both his father and a fellow KCOB Oliver Smith, he decided to study law instead. In 1986 he graduated from the Norman Manley Law School and joined the law firm of Livingston, Alexander & Levy, becoming a partner in 1994.
Despite the demanding schedule of his practice, Batts nonetheless finds time to give back both to KC and the community. He sits on the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association and is a former Vice Chair of the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights. He also serves as a director of the KC Development Trust Fund, and has held executive positions with the Shortwood United Football Club including Treasurer and President, and provides pro bono legal representation to the indigent and the disenfranchised. Batts is also a pivotal member of the KC Class of 78 which, largely through his efforts, among others, has organized itself into an effective medium for addressing issues affecting KC and its alumni.
Batts’ professional accomplishments includes a major victory in the Privy Counsel in the landmark case, Digicel v. Office of Utilities Regulation (“OUR”), Cable and Wireless Jamaica Limited & Centennial Jamaica Limited. At issue in the case was the scope of the independence of the OUR and whether it was bound to follow the government’s directives.
Through skillful lawyering and careful statutory interpretation, Batts and his team, which included two other KCOBs, Ransford Braham and George Wilson, and Susan Risden- Foster, were able to weave together a coherent and persuasive argument which ultimately carried the day in the Privy Council. The ruling, which reinforced the OUR’s independence, ensured greater protection for customers against price-fixing and monopoly practices.
In addition, Batts has consistently taken courageous public stances on social, economic, political issues of national importance including, but not limited to:
- Admonishing then-Prime Minster, Bruce Golding, in an op-ed in the Jamaica Gleaner for his failure to extradite drug lord, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, to the United States
- Criticizing the Jamaica Bar Association for advocating the abolition of preliminary inquiry in criminal proceedings
- Urging parliamentarians to vote their conscience rather than vote purely on party lines
- Highlighting the relationship between garrison communities, the culture of gun violence, and some members of Parliament
“I have always found it an extreme pleasure to read his erudite articles in the Gleaner and his essays in the Law Journal,” says journalist, Basil Waite. “These covered a range of subjects on the justice system which include the Caribbean Court of Justice, human rights issues, penal reform and matters affecting the legal profession. He is extensively quoted by legal scholars and social activists. I was filled with pride when I heard the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Dennis Byron, quote from a body of David's work during a recent public forum at the Mona Law Faculty:
‘He spared no punches and hits hard like pugilist Donovan "Police" Campbell. In a biting critique of some of his colleagues’ call for abolition of preliminary enquiries, David Batts retorts: Justice cannot be achieved if its safeguards are jettisoned in the interest of perceived expedition.’"
“I dedicate the award to my parents, and my KC experience prepared me for the personal and professional challenges of life,” says Batts in his typical humble and understated manner.
Batts’ accomplishments highlight the central leadership role KCOBs continue to play in all areas of society, both in Jamaica and beyond its shores, and is a source of pride for the legal profession and for our beloved alma mater, KC.
Batts and his beautiful wife, Michele, celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary later this year. They have three children: Jordan, 22, (upcoming reggae artist "Jedani"); Renee, 20, (U.W.I.); and Brian, 13, (Campion College).