CJ on trial
Chief Justice (CJ) Sir Marston Gibson will face a judge in his own court next month when a hearing comes up on September 16 in a lawsuit filed by Queen’s Counsel Vernon Smith, who accused the CJ of denying him the right to work.
Smith, who is represented by Queen’s Counsel Edmund King, has alleged that the Chief Justice breached many of his fundamental constitutional and human rights by barring him from representing his client in a case which came up before Sir Marston on April 14 this year.
The veteran lawyer revealed that Sir Marston failed to enter an acknowledgment or file a defence in the matter, neither did he produce to Smith the reasons for refusing him a hearing.
“By not giving me a hearing, he has prevented me from earning a living; he denied me the right to work. It will be interesting the first hearing when it comes on for hearing, because I want to know what relief I can get from the court in those circumstances,” the senior attorney told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has also been named in the lawsuit, which arose out of the Chief Justice’s decision to prevent Smith from practising law in Barbadian courts because he had not paid his annual subscription to the Barbados Bar Association.
The lawyer claimed that the Chief Justice effectively disbarred him without due process after Smith was prevented from acting on behalf of Branlee Consulting Incorporated on April 14, a company owned by former CLICO executive Leroy Parris.
Smith is also seeking damages and is demanding that the Chief Justice gives his reasons in writing for refusing to hear him when he tried to represent his client.
The prominent attorney said he had tried, and was willing to pay the subscriptions, but without the value added tax (VAT). The association had for years refused to accept subscriptions unless VAT was included.
However, Smith has been refusing to pay VAT, claiming that the Bar Association had no authority to impose such a tax, and that he would not now re-submit any fees to the association, insisting the High Court would have to make a declaration on the issue.
But the matter of annual subscriptions had received the official backing of Sir Marston long before this suit came up. In a letter dated June 19, 2014 and addressed to then association president Barry Gale, QC, the Chief Justice stressed he would instruct the then Acting Registrar of the Supreme Court Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell to inform the attorneys listed in correspondence dated June 16, 2014 from Gale, that their practising certificates were not be valid in the absence of the subscription.
Sir Marston’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, also stated that the acting registrar should direct those lawyers to return their practising certificates. Citing section 10 (2) of the Legal Profession Act, the head of the judiciary wrote that this section of the law “provides that no person should practice law unless he has a practising certificate.
In addition, section 45 (3) provides that a practising certificate should not be issued to an attorney-at-law until the annual subscription required by section 44 of the act has been paid.”
Sir Marston informed Gale that, accordingly, a copy of his letter would be sent to each Justice of Appeal, Judge of the High Court and Magistrate, informing them that those attorneys who had not paid their subscriptions had no right of any audience before the court.
The hearing is scheduled to begin in the High Court at 9:30 am on September 16.