The arrest of the venerable lawyer Leroy Lynch on a 2.2 million fraud charge on the weekend, has sent ripples through the legal fraternity and wider society. Why would Mr. Lynch, who has represented First Caribbean International Bank, and before that CIBC for many years, sought to perpetrate fraud has proved to be incomprehensible to BU. It will be interesting to observe the Director of Public Prosecutor’s argument.
The Lynch issue has served yet again to catapult the legal profession into the public eye. The recently appointed President of the Barbados Bar Association (Bar) Andrew Pilgrim, and his early struggle to transmit an unequivocal position on behalf of the Bar regarding the decision to amend the law to accommodate the appointment of incoming Chief Justice Marston Gibson, is symptomatic of something greater. Last week retired jurist and former Attorney General Sir Frederick Smith was surprisingly censored on a talk show when he attempted to speak about the cabals which exist inside the Bar.
BU’s investigation has turned up that they are those who operate within the realm of the judicature whose power structures have suddenly become threatened by the imminent arrival by someone outside the inner circle. Now that the government has shown it is determined to appoint Marston Gibson, some members of the Bar might be seen as using intimidatory tactics to signal to Gibson his life will be very uncomfortable sitting on the Bench should he accept the job. In a nutshell the appointment of Marston Gibson will disrupt a pecking order which is sure to irritate the fraternity of men in wigs who gather in the back rooms to toss back glasses of Sherry from time to time before handing down their decisions.
Many may become distracted with the the issues being generated by the appointment of incoming Chief Justice Marston Gibson but a clog in the wheel to dispensing justice in Barbados has been the inefficiency of the Court Registry. The leadership of the Registry has demonstrated over time to be highly incompetent. Could it be there is a fear Gibson will actually expect the leadership of the Court Registry to ‘up their game’?
Unlike the private sector where incompetent and non performing employees can be dismissed using basic performance management tools, not so seasoned civil servants. The problem at the Court Registry seems to be directly related to the Public Services Union and the fact that the now 15 year old Civil Service Reforms have not taken effect. There is the widely known fact at large in Barbados, it is very difficult to dismiss civil servants for incompetence. The decision to shift them other areas of the Civil Service is widely practiced but then you cannot appoint new people to fill their jobs. In such a situation how can new employees at the Registry shine if advancement is tied to seniority and not ability? The consequence of it all is a lot of incompetent people who have seniority will advance instead of those who have the aptitude and commitment. This is a worrying characteristic of the public service, public sector reform not withstanding.
Incoming Chief Justice Gibson has to accept he will have to work with the judges he finds. Although there is provision for incompetent judges to be removed under the Constitution by a Royal Commission. Those incompetent judges are having to face the fact that the chances of such Royal Commissions being set up is increased should there be sufficient grounds. By appointing someone outside the “old boy” network as CJ, the chances of Royal Commissions being activated are greatly increased. The fraternity would be under threat!
Another consideration why the government needs to find the right persons to bring leadership to the Court System is the debilitating effect it is having on the financial sector. We understand investors are not enamoured about having to get legal work done in Barbados. The inability of successive governments through its agent, the Civil Service, to implement Civil Service Reforms has been at the source of the problem.
With a general election in the offing does anyone believe the government will attempt to make the deep-rooted changes necessary to unmasked the outdated system we have?
We are surely caught between a rock and a hard place. Does the government have the gumption to put Barbados first? Regrettably we all know the answer.