Just a few
Bar says a handful of lawyers giving profession bad name
Declaring that it has had enough of failed political promises and inaction by the judiciary, the umbrella body for the more than 1,000 lawyers in Barbados says it’s trying to weed out “bad” attorneys, but its hands are tied.
President of the Barbados Bar Association Tariq Khan told a news conference this afternoon that even the Disciplinary Committee, which is a separate entity from the Bar council, is facing challenges as it tries to censure lawyers who run afoul of the law or break the rules that govern the profession.
He pointed out that under the law, the council could only make recommendations and it was the Court of Appeal that had to decide whether to reprimand or disbar an attorney.
“I understand from both the chair [of the Disciplinary Committee] and the previous chair that there are reports with the Court of Appeal regarding recommendations for certain lawyers, but they have not been acted on,” Khan said.
“We are not responsible for that, neither is the Disciplinary Committee, but it gives you an idea of the challenges that we face as a profession and the criticisms lodged against us for the things that we are not responsible for,” he added, insisting that those in authority who had the power to make the difference but failed to do so should shoulder the blame.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY following the Press conference, Khan’s predecessor Barry Gale, QC said the Bar was concerned about lawyers who were charged before the law courts or recommended for disbarment, but continued to practise.
He disclosed that there were two matters involving one lawyer who the Bar has recommended be disbarred, and another attorney who had about eight cases before the Disciplinary Committee, the majority of them related to owing clients money.
Both of them, Gale pointed out, continued to work.
The former Bar president has suggested that the appropriate legislation be amended to allow the suspension of attorneys pending the outcome of their cases.
Khan told reporters that the Disciplinary Committee had received 72 complaints last year, compared to 53 in 2013.
At the same time, both Gale and Khan insisted that offending lawyers were in the minority.
They agreed that it was “less than one per cent”, with a few of those being repeat offenders.
“One of the things that the Disciplinary Committee was able to identify was that whilst there may be many complaints they concerned few lawyers, so there may be repeat complaints or complaints regarding a particular lawyer,” Khan said.
Today’s Press conference came against the background of two attorneys – Speaker of the House Michael Carrington and Vonda Pile – being taken to the court by their clients for debts owed.
Meantime, Khan has blamed successive governments for failing to act on a report of a commission set up in 2004 to restructure the Disciplinary Committee and examine the management of the legal profession.
He said the body, chaired by the late Sir Roy Marshall and including Queen’s Counsels Barry Gale, Leslie Haynes, Margo Greene, Basil Giles and now High Court Judge Jacqueline Cornelius, made a recommendation that the number of members on the Disciplinary Committee be increased to 21, including laypersons.
“This is over ten years ago . . . and this was fully supported by the Bar. So don’t point your finger at us when these things don’t happen. This lies with Government,” Khan declared.
“We want to make a change and we want to assist in making change.”
Khan therefore called on authorities to treat the legal fraternity with respect and as equals in the administration of justice.