Bar still waiting on Nimrod on QC appointments

A possible clash could be in the making between the Executive and Judiciary in Grenada on government’s attempt to award Queen’s Counsel status to two attorneys-at-law in private practice – Ruggles Ferguson and Derek Sylvester.

Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that the Chief Justice of the OECS Court system, Dame Justice Janice Pereira met with the Executive of the Grenada Bar Association last week Wednesday and touched on the issue.

A source who asked not to be named said that the female head of the OECS court told the lawyers in attendance that she intends to follow the established protocol as put in writing by former Chief Justice Hugh Rawlins on the granting of QC status.

He said the Chief justice has her own reservations about certain aspects of the protocol especially the exorbitant fees to be paid by lawyers to achieve QC standing.

Under the protocol, persons have to apply for elevation as Senior lawyers to a five member “Silk Committee” put in place by the Chief Justice and headed by a Justice of the Court of Appeal.

In the case of Ferguson and Sylvester, the two were hand-picked by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and submitted to Cabinet for ratification.

THE NEW TODAY contacted President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Anande Trotman-Joseph Wednesday for comment on the issue but she was not in a position to do so until another two to three weeks.

Trotman-Joseph said that she was currently doing some research on the protocol issue and was waiting on information from Dame Janice that was promised at the meeting with her executive members.

She also told this newspaper that the local bar has not received any request from government for a meeting to be held with Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod to discuss the decision to grant QC status to Ferguson and Sylvester.

THE NEW TODAY has reported that Nimrod was mandated by Cabinet to seek a meeting with the bar to inform them of the planned elevation of the two lawyers in private practice to become QC’s.

The decision runs contrary to the advice given to government by its principal legal advisor, Attorney-General Cajeton Hood and Solicitor General Dwight Horsford to proceed with caution on the issue.

The two attorneys noted that the established norm is for government to only nominate for QC status lawyers in public office like the Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney-General and Solicitor and not those operating in private practice.

Speculation is rife that Prime Minister Mitchell has brushed aside the advice in favour of one given to him by a non-national advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister that the protocol in existence is not binding on Grenada.

Attorney Ferguson has been quoted as saying that he will not accept the award of QC from government if it did not come through the office of the Chief Justice.

Sylvester has continued to decline invitations by this newspaper to comment on the issue.

The move by the Mitchell-led government to offer QC status to Sylvester and Ferguson outside of the CJ Protocol has angered some members of the legal profession on the island.

The CJ protocol states that, “the award of Queen’s Counsel is for excellence made to experienced, senior practitioners who have demonstrated their competencies to a standard of excellence”.

One of the essential criteria set out in the protocol is that the lawyer identified for QC status “must be learned in the law so as to provide sound guidance and to assist in judicial interpretation and development of the law”, as well as be able to “display a sound appreciation of the jurisprudence of the region, and be analytical in the application of the law”.

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