Justice Pamela Beckles recently ruled in a matter brought by former Bar president Tariq Khan versus Vonda Pile that compulsory membership in the Barbados Bar Association is unconstitutional. The Bar Association has signaled that the matter will be appealed. The following Barbados Underground blog which highlighted the matter was posted in April of 2013.
Non Membership in the Barbados Bar Association Does Not Preclude a Lawyer’s Right to Practice Law
BU has been provided with a copy of the letter dated April 4, 2013 by which the Chief Justice finally advised the new Queens Counsel that he had received the Letters Patent that the GG had executed and sent to the CJ some weeks previously, instructing that they be delivered. The GG had also officially informed the new Queens Counsel himself of their appointment, from which time they had the right to put the letters QC after their names. Do not expect Chief Justice Gibson to offer an explanation for the delay.
BU has also been provided with a legal opinion on the matter of mandatory membership of the Barbados Bar Association, on which it has been argued, in essence, that there is a requirement that attorneys who are certified to practice law in Barbados must also be members of the Barbados Bar Association. BU’s legal opinion states that, as such an Act breaches the Constitution, it is a nullity ab initio, as indeed is any law which breaches the Constitution. Otherwise, the Constitution, which requires a two third majority of the House to change it, would be held hostage to the much lower standard of a simple act of parliament, which requires merely a majority. This would compromise the rights of Bajans and infringe their liberties. Pursued, it could also potentially lead away from democracy to dictatorship.
Thus, the list produced recently by the Bar Association of those counsel who have not paid their membership fees, is not relevant to right to practice law. As long as those attorneys have certification (and a complete list is available from the Official Gazette updated yearly) those attorneys have the right to practice that cannot be gainsaid by the Bar Association.
The Bar Association list has been generally interpreted and presented in the Fourth Estate and the blogs as being a denial of rights to practice by those attorneys and BU posts this clarification. The suggestion or implication that these attorneys, provided they have current practice certificates, are not eligible to practice law is potentially legally actionable.