“Devotion to service and to assisting people in the community who do not readily access justice through procuring legal services, one of tremendous humour, who got along extremely well with others and someone who was always willing to assist the court when others were not around to do so.”
These are just some of the many attributes labelled on late Attorney-at-law, Ashley Bernardine who passed away earlier in the month.
The tributes came from members of the legal profession, who came together to pay homage to a fallen colleague and friend on Tuesday, during a special sitting of the court at the CIAPO building at Mt. Wheldale.
Attorney Bernardine stood out among local lawyers for his selflessness when it came to assisting persons who have gone afoul of the law and did not have an attorney to represent them in court and his constant willingness to assist the Magistrates and High Court judges.
In delivering a special tribute on behalf of the OECS Bar Association, Attorney Ruggles Ferguson, a former President of both the local and OECS Bar(s), spoke of the many ways in which “Ashley” as he called him, gave service to the legal profession.
“Ashley has served the Grenada Bar well at different levels including the OECS Bar Association…he was very consistent at meetings, even before he became President of the Bar in 2009 and subsequent to demitting office, he also continued supporting the activities of the OECS Bar Association”, Ferguson said.
“I think what he recognised as not many of our colleagues do and not just colleagues in the profession but as a nation, the importance of these regional institutions, of Bar Associations and in particular, regional bar associations like the OECS Bar where you can use the collective energy, the wisdom and spirit of lawyers throughout the OECS to make the OECS a better place….”, he added.
Ferguson went on: “… I think Ashley looked beyond the local, he embraced the regional (and) the international recognising that we are just a dot on the map and part of the wider world and to survive in this world, especially in the era of globalisation, we need to come together as one”.
Notably absent at the ceremony was all of the resident High Court Judges who are said to be out of the island during the court vacation period.
However, Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Davidson Baptiste was flown into the island to assist with the proceedings.
Justice Baptiste was known to be a close friend of Bernadine when he posted on the island as a high court judge.
He recalled the many good times spent with Bernadine who used to make frequent personal calls to him.
Speaking with reporters following the ceremony, President of the Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Lisa Taylor noted that Attorney Bernardine’s attitude towards providing pro-bono services to persons should not be taken lightly.
“That is not something to ever treat lightly because it’s a tradition that is on the way (and) it has been a longstanding condition of the legal profession you are called upon to give pro-bono service as part of the general service that we render to the community and it is not something we are seeing enough of as ought to be the case so for that to be in a sense a sort of hallmark in a lawyer’s professional life it speaks volumes of the character of the lawyer and the importance he placed on the needs of the society…and I think that is one of the important aspects of his life that will be remembered and missed and we hope others would emulate going forward”, she said.
The female lawyer Taylor expressed the hope that “this message was resonated today”.
“We were very heartened by the tremendous turnout,” she said, noting that “over the years, special court sittings have not been as well supported”.
“And you would have seen today that the hall was filled to its capacity and that speaks volumes about the regard members of the bar have for their fallen comrade,” she added.
The list of lawyers in attendance included Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Christopher Nelson, QC, Legal Affairs Minister Kindra Maturine-Stewart and Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter David, an attorney at law by profession as well as acting Attorney-General, Dr Lawrence Joseph and his wife Anande Trotman-Joseph who is also a barrister-at-law by profession.
Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and Ex-Finance Minister Nazim Burke who are both attorneys graced the hall along with seasoned Attorney Anselm Clouden, who was a close friend of Bernadine.
There were also several younger practitioners in attendance such as Sasha Courtney, Olabisi Clouden, Skeeta Chitan and Celene and Deloni Edwards.
Bernadine’s body was laid to rest on Wednesday at the St. George’s Cemetery after a funeral service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. George’s according to Anglican rites.
The late attorney-at-law was the husband of former Education Minister, Franka Bernadine who is a senior member of the Congress party.