Outgoing high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed has called for changes to be made to the procedure used in Grenada to accept persons to practice law in the local courts.
The Trinidad and Tobago-born judge suggested that Grenada should fall in line with the practice existing in the other jurisdictions in the Caribbean for applications made by persons to be admitted to the local Bar to be served on the Grenada Bar Association (GBA).
Justice Mohammed made the recommendation against the backdrop of her ruling last week for the Supreme Court Registry to strike the name of Antigua attorney-at-law, Kenroy Samuel from the list of lawyers allowed to operate in the local courts.
The case against Samuel was filed by the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) on the grounds that when he made the application for admittance, the attorney did not disclose that he had been disbarred from practicing law in the State of New York in the United States on the grounds of professional misconduct.
It is alleged that Samuel got mixed up with thousands of dollars belonging to clients.
In her 17-page ruling, Justice Mohammed who is due to take up a judgeship in her homeland in November hinted that if a local bar is aware of persons who are seeking permission to practice in the local courts, it would be in a good position to look closely at the applicants.
“Given the events that transpired in this matter leading up to the application (of Samuel), in my view the profession and the interest of the public would best be served if a practice is instituted of serving the application for a person to be admitted as an attorney-at-law on the Bar since it will at least put the GBA on notice of prospective applicants, given their mandate …. which includes representing and protecting the interest of the legal profession in Grenada and assisting the public in Grenada in all matters relating to law”, said Justice Mohammed in her ruling.
Under the present system, applications are sent to the Registrar of the Supreme Court who then has to notify the court about whether the person has met the necessary qualifications to be called to the bar.
Samuel came into the Grenada jurisdiction in early 2013 to work with the law firm of Justis Chambers that involved New York-based Grenadian attorney, Gerard Douglas and Cajeton Hood, the current Attorney-General with the government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
In his affidavit, Samuel said that in February 2013, Douglas whom he described as “his colleague and long-standing friend”, offered him a position at Justis Chambers which he was managing since Hood had left the Chambers to take up a post with the Mitchell government.
Samuel applied to the Supreme Court Registry and was given the green light to practice law in Grenada.
In the case brought against him by GBA, the local body contended before Justice Mohammed that Samuel failed to disclose that he had “been disbarred and his name was stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law in the State of New York in the United States of America”.
The Antiguan opposed the GBA move on the grounds that “at the time of the filing of his application to be admitted ….. he was unaware of the disbarment Order since he was not served with the proceedings leading to it, he only became aware of it in October 2013….”.
Justice Mohammed expressed grave doubts about the truth of Samuel’s information that it was years later that he got to know about the New York disbarment.
She noted the contents of an affidavit from the former President of GBA, Jimmy Bristol who engaged Samuel on the issue after being advised to do so by AG, Cajeton Hood.
According to the information presented to the court, AG Hood told Bristol that he was showed certain correspondence from another local attorney, Ian Sandy about the Disbarment Order affecting Samuel in New York..
Justice Mohamed said in her ruling: “The AG (Cajeton Hood) also indicated to Mr. Bristol that subsequent to receiving the said information (from Sandy), he spoke with the Respondent (Samuel) and discussed the Disbarment Order (in New York) with him. According to Mr. Bristol, the AG told the Respondent because the latter was working out of his former private Chambers, Justis Chambers, it would be better for the Respondent to speak with Mr. Bristol with a view to ascertaining the Respondent’s intention in practicing in Grenada in light of the Disbarment Order and that the AG would arrange for the Respondent to attend Mr. Bristol’s Chambers to discuss the matter.
“Mr. Bristol further stated that the AG told him that the Respondent was fully aware of the Disbarment Order before he suggested that the Respondent meet with him. The Respondent and Mr. Bristol met at the former’s Chambers sometime in December 2013 where they discussed the matter.
“Mr. Bristol was of the view at that meeting that the Respondent expressed no surprise or concern about the existence of the Disbarment Order. According to Mr. Bristol, the Respondent did not deny that he was disbarred from practicing in the State of New York.
Bristol also made mention of a second meeting he had with Samuel in early 2014 in which the Antiguan admitted to him that he did not have the finances to hire lawyers in New York to challenge his disbarment.
Samuel told this newspaper a few month ago, his troubles in Grenada started at Justis Chambers when he made a move to get the court to bring imprisonment proceedings against Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in the Capbank matter involving city businessman, Finton De Bourg.
The Antiguan alleged that Hood was increasingly brought under pressure at Cabinet meetings since it was his law firm through the action of Samuel that was seeking to legally embarrass PM Mitchell.
Justice Mohammed’s ruling also touched on the role played by AG Hood in the unfolding of the Samuel matter involving the local bar.
“The court has noted with great concern that the AG (Cajeton Hood) played a significant role in the events which precipitated the application and, for reasons unknown to the Court, the AG has not filed any affidavit to place on record his account of his role.
“This has deprived the Court of the benefit of his evidence in a matter which has far reaching consequences, not only for the Respondent but for the profession in Grenada. In my view such omission is unfortunate”, she added.
According to Justice Mohammed, if the local court had been made aware of the Disbarment Order standing against Samuel’s name in New York, the outcome with his application would have been different at the time of his filing for admittance.
“It is this court’s opinion that if the information in the Disbarment Order was placed before the (local Court) ….. the results of the … hearing would have been different”, said Justice Mohammed.
“The court’s decision on 21st May 2013 to admit the Respondent to practice as an Attorney-at-law in Grenada is set aside and the Registrar of the Supreme Court is directed to remove his name from the roll of Attorneys-at-law.
Justice Mohammed also ordered Samuel to pay EC$5000.00 in legal costs to the local bar.