A controversial attorney-at-law has been appointed by the island’s Governor-General to serve on a seven-member committee to monitor the operations of the legal profession in light of complaints made about the affairs of some lawyers within the profession.
The names of the committee members were announced at Tuesday’s weekly post-Cabinet press briefing by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod.
According to Nimrod, the committee will be chaired by Grenadian-born female high court judge, Justice Rita Joseph-Olivetti and includes Celia Edwards, QC, Attorney General Cajeton Hood, Guyanese lawyer, Thandie Lyle, former Attorney-General Rohan Phillip, and ex-bankers Daniel Roberts, and Michael Archibald.
Minister Nimrod said the government has been receiving concerns from persons that they are not getting their money’s worth after paying some lawyers for their legal services.
He told reporters that the ruling New National Party (NNP) Administration passed the Legal Profession Act in Parliament recently to govern the behaviour of lawyers.
He said the law stipulates that the Governor General should appoint the committee to perform the task of observing the legal profession.
He noted that for years now people have been clamouring for a monitoring committee on the grounds that lawyers were not giving them the justice that they deserve.
“They were demanding that the authorities do something about it because the people are complaining that they are paying their monies and I mean I have nothing against lawyers, I used to make my living that way at one time but I am telling you that there are lots of complaints against lawyers,” he said.
The Legal Affairs Minister referred to some of the complaints made by citizens against lawyers.
“Number one: there are lawyers that receive monies from clients and had not done the work …that lawyers sometime co-mingle funds. In other words, they take their client funds and put it together with their own personal account – all these allegations…”, he said.
“…Complaints like one lawyer is representing the plaintiff and the defendant in the same case…those are serious allegations and so the government of the day, the New National Party Administration, took on the task to bring relief to the public on those issues. So, we passed in Parliament, the Legal Profession Act, which is supposed to govern the behaviour of lawyers…” he added.
According to Minister Nimrod, the move to set up the body is “very important” as it is responding to the call of the people for lawyers to account to their clients.
“We were placed here to make sure we listen to the people and we serve the people. That’s why they elected us to serve them in the first place and when our population starts complaining about the system that makes them uncomfortable or that denies them due process or denies them their day in court, we have a responsibility, a solemn one so to speak to make sure that we bring relief to our people.
“…I am sure that everyone of us sitting here must be familiar with what has been happening or the allegations that have been made or continue to be made by our people and so taking action, bringing the legislation and now implementing the legislation, I believe is a very important thing that all of us must be proud of.
THE NEW TODAY has in its possession documents filed in the Supreme Court Registry citing the behaviour of one of the named committee members in a case involving a Grenadian who is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence on a drug charge in the U.S Virgin Islands.
The Grenadian has been calling on the attorney without success to hand over thousands of dollars given to him for safe keeping in a Trust Fund to another attorney.
According to the court documents, this lawyer who has been appointed to monitor the conduct of his colleagues handed over only a fraction of the money and is still holding onto the larger portion of the man’s money.
The controversial lawyer has also been accused of using his position to influence the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to take court action against the incarcerated individual to seize his local assets on the grounds that they derived from the proceeds of the illegal drug trade.
This newspaper reproduces in the interest of the public a portion of its editorial dated July 8, 2016 in which it commented on the conduct of this particular lawyer on monies holding for one of his clients.
It said in part: “THE NEW TODAY has a document from the law office of this lawyer in which a breakdown was given in a financial statement of how some of the funds given in trust were utilised.
The lawyer said in the statement that the office charged the client $40, 000.00 as a retainer for a particular court matter. These are fees charged by Queen’s Counsel and the lawyer is not one of them.
The lawyer then takes out $20, 000.00 from the man’s money to do two things – draft a power of attorney and secondly to draft a revocation of the power of attorney.
THE NEW TODAY checked with other well-established, reputable and respectable law firms that indicated to us that the normal fees to do up a power of attorney for a client is $1, 000.00 and it can go as high as $1500.00 depending on certain circumstances.
But here you have a lawyer who is holding a very important job in Grenada, “ripping off” a client and charging him $20, 000.00 for doing work on drafting and revocation of a power of attorney.
As one attorney wrote in documents filed in the case, “The equity principle here, is that the learned (lawyer) occupying the dual position of former Counsel to (the man) and Applicant in this action, be not allowed to obtain and hold the advantage of the Order (to seize the man’s property), which may well have been informed and indeed was likely informed, by knowledge gained as a former Counsel. It matters not whether this is actually so. The perception of it is equally important”.
Today the lawyer is holding one’s money in trust and tomorrow morning he is colluding with the State to seize even the money that he has not yet handed over to the client. This is justice in Grenada”.