8 Jul 2011

Monkey Island issues

When I return to the UK, I have to attend the Privy Council to hear a matter involving the local courts. I expect the local legal fraternity to get tapped up again. Why?

The matters involving the Attorney General and Universal Projects Ltd and the Attorney General vs Keron Matthews, scheduled to be heard by Lords Phillips, Brown, Kerr, Dyson and Coghlin deal with the new rules that set time limits on filing appeals to the courts. That make sense, a lot of sense, since as we all know, the pace of justice in Trinbago is like that of lava running uphill. Give the lawyers a deadline to file their paperwork and things should speed up, right?

Not on Monkey Island. Instead, lawyers are missing the deadlines, losing the cases and blaming it on the new rules. So they have challenged these rules (despite several judgments against them) all the way to the Privy Council. Wrong and strong as it were.

In the case of Universal , the lawyers in the then Attorney General’s department and the Ministry of Works during the period 2008-2009 failed to respond to the requirements of a pre-action protocol letter concerning a TTD 32 million dollar contract. In this case it is reported that the pre-action protocol letter was received by the appellants by 14th November, 2008. However, up to the 8th December, 2008 and many day beyond no reply had been issued. Basically the appellant did not comply with the court processing rules which stipulate a time for response and all the other legal matters that were required. The appellant ignored the rules and moved in his own good time. So after all the legal interventions and time extensions given to the appellant (and others) the matter finally came to a head and the court determined that the appellant was in breach and entered a default judgement for the respondent. On appeal, the court said “the circumstances of this case illustrate exactly the kind of ‘laissez-faire’ approach to civil litigation that undermines the good administration of justice and that can no longer be accepted”. Further the judgement read “The State has found itself in this position because of a multitude of defaults, omissions and choices made on its behalf”.

Of course the defendant (Attorney General) appealed the matter thus effectively challenging the court processing rules so enter the law association who because of the global effect a judgement from the privy council will have on the workings of our courts whose lawyers they represent applied to be a party to the proceedings at privy council. HM Castillo

Now, I fully expect Lords Phillips et al to rule against the lawyers and for the CJ. I don’t have much hope for the second thing I wish to happen; that if a lawyer missed a deadline, then he should remain personally and financially responsible to his client, and be fined punitive damages (unlimited) to be paid to his client. It makes sense that if you shirk your responsibility and lose money belonging to your client, by not doing a simple task as meeting a deadline, then you ought to be penalised for it.

This is not the first time I find lawyers playing ‘footsie’ with the rules. Remember when they ruled that they should not be reporting to the Integrity Commission? They simply reinterpreted the law to exclude themselves. Then again, this is Monkey Island.