In recent days Attorney General Dale Marshall has been in the news relating to several matters. Two items piqued the blogmaster’s interest.
In summary he said he had been following the issue concerning the wall at Joe’s River in St. Joseph, the constituency he represents. And that he was forced to decline public comment on the matter because future developments may involve aspects of his ministry.
See relevant extract of Attorney General Marshall commenting on the issue.
The other issue was Marshall commenting on the lack of complaints raised by the Barbados Bar Association against judges who have been persistently late handing down written decisions.
BU is of the view the 2016 Financial Statement of the Barbados Bar Association (BA) is of public interest for two key reasons. There is sufficient cash generated from membership fees to fund the recruitment of a senior clerk to assist with trying to improve service delivery to the public. Then there is the matter of the stagnant Compensation Fund BU has written about several times. It appears that the fund is used only to feed the coffers of the Nation newspaper yet clients who are abused by dishonest lawyers continue to NOT have access to money collecting in the Fund.
For several years BU has been ridiculed by many for making the observation Barbados law courts are stymied by a backlog of cases and unable to dispense justice in a timely manner. BU is on record advocating that QCs function as deputy judges to help with building efficiency in the courts.
The Barbados Bar Association (BA) in a report carried in the local media titled Go with acting judges confirms BU’s message. The article quotes the BA wanting more judges to help reduce the backload and is calling for government to increase filing and application fees both in the Supreme Court and the Registration Department. The BA’s grievances were addressed in a letter directed to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler. The letter also made the point ‘theCaribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had on several occasions reprimanded both the Court of Appeal and the High Court for the unacceptable amount of time it took for cases to be tried and judgements given’. Does any of this looks familiar?
BU states for the record we are against the BA’s recommendation to increase filing and application fees. At a time of unprecedented financial crisis in Barbados such a move is bound to reduce access to justice by the poor, tipping the scale further in favour of the well off. What manner of people are to want to implement a pricing system to hinder ordinary citizens access to justice?
On June 19, 2004, Chief Justice Marston Gibson weighed in on the dispute that BU has been covering for some time. That of the Constitution vs the Legal Profession Act Cap 370A. BU has obtained a letter from the CJ to Mr Barry Gale QC, the president of the Bar Association – see letter sent by the CJ to Barry Gale.
The history of the Constitution and the Legal Profession Act goes back to the very beginning of the Act and the formation of the BA. The BA’s first president, Mr Jack Dear QC (later Sir John Dear) realising that the Act was fatally flawed and would not stand up to a constitutional challenge, declined to challenge attorneys who opted not to join the BA, most notably Mr Bobby Clarke, who has never been a member of the BA and between whom and Jack Dear, there was no love lost. If anything there was a mutual and well-known animosity. Successive presidents of the BA have also declined to involve themselves in a face-to-face fight against the Constitution, until the advent of Mr Leslie Haynes.
BU has been able to access the audited financial report of the Bar Association (BA) relative to the Compensation Fund. BU notes that the fund holds in excess of $2 million. The authority for the Fund is to be found at Part VIII of the Legal Professions Act Cap. 370A of the Laws of Barbados.
Briefly, the Act states:
The Fund is the property of the BA and must be paid into a separate bank account to the credit of the BA to be known as “the Attorneys-at-law Compensation Fund”.
Every attorney-at-law is required, when a Practicing Certificate is issued to him, to pay to the Registrar his/her annual contribution to the Fund, without which no Practicing Certificate will be issued.
“50. (1) Where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Bar Association that any person has sustained loss in consequence of dishonesty on the part of an attorney-at-law or any clerk or servant of an attorney-at-law in connection with that attorney-at-law’s practice as an attorney-at-law or in connection with any trust of which that attorney-at-law is a trustee, then, subject to the provisions of this section, the Association may, if it thinks fit, make a grant to that person out of the Fund for the purpose of relieving or mitigating that loss.”
A few points to ponder from the reading of the posted financials.
Sir Henry De B. Forde, K.A. Q.C. – Barbados’ best known counsel
In the last two instalments of Tales From The Courts, BU ventilated an aspect of land law that had the possible potential to cause problems for vendors and purchasers alike. This arose because of an Order given by Miss Kentish of the Barbados High Court. BU’s position evoked much argument from both sides of the issue.
Some well known counsel said that the Order was correct. Some, including it is reported, the a party to a sale and purchase and their counsel, held that the Order was a nullity and therefore refused to proceed with the purchase. It is not the intention of BU to go into the relative merits of this argument. We leave that to the lawyers to discuss among themselves.
What BU will do, however, is to fulfil its function, which is to serve the general Bajan public by pointing out the dilemma facing it. The fact that there are clearly two schools of legal thought within the legal fraternity on this issue of law, means that ultimately one is wrong and the other right. Therefore, it is clearly best for members of the general public, vendors and purchasers of land alike, to err on the side of caution. And it is clearly best for their counsel to be responsible enough to encourage them to do so.