Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson is concerned about what he sees as “growing instances of attorney dishonesty”.
And in a statement today issued by the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Sir Marston, who is currently in Trinidad, said that while the disciplinary rules required that complainants complete an affidavit, “we may need to consider the possibility of permitting ‘whistleblower’ complaints by lawyers against lawyers on a confidential basis”.
His comments come ahead of a special general meeting of the Bar Association scheduled for Thursday, July 17, at 2 p.m. at which a resolution is to be tabled for the president of the Barbados Bar Association, Tariq Khan, to “commence proceedings for Judicial Review, in accordance with the Administration of Justice Act, Chapter 109B, of the Laws Of Barbados, of the actions of the Chief Justice of Barbados as chairman of the Judicial Council for failing to call and constitute a meeting of the Judicial Council in contravention of Section 93 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, Chapter 117A, of the Laws Of Barbados”.
When contacted today, the Bar president said he had no comment to make on the matter.
However, in his statement, the Chief Justice said he was worried about reports of lawyers who owed large sums to clients, and tried to settle the matter by bypassing the Disciplinary Committee.
“Even I have heard of lawyers who owe hundreds of thousands of dollars and who are being permitted to repay the money piecemeal, without any formal complaint being filed with the committee.
“This is intolerable and cannot be permitted to continue,” the island’s top judicial officer warned.
He said the legal fraternity was being adversely impacted by what he called a crisis of trust that exists in the country.
“The suggestion which I plan to make, on an interim basis, is for volunteer lawyers to assist the committee with its work, but a long-term solution is desperately needed, if the Bar is not to lose out in the crisis of trust which presently exists,” he added.
“I want to find out what is the Bar’s plan to tackle the growing instances of attorney dishonesty. The twitter in Barbados is that there are several attorneys who are in the same position as the attorney whose case is presently pending before the Court of Appeal,” he said.
However, the Chief Justice said the Disciplinary Committee had been unable to “get its head above the staggering backlog under which it labours”.
He pointed out though, that while the committee had a “huge backlog” of complaints against lawyers, several of them would be found without merit, but several others required investigation.
“This is an issue which the Bar has not dealt with, at least not publicly, and the Disciplinary Committee needs help. Too many Barbadians view attorneys as belonging to some sort of secret organization which protects itself even when its members commit defalcation against clients’ accounts. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Sir Marston insisted.
He said the committee met in the Supreme Court every Tuesday and worked until late in the evening.
The top judicial officer also addressed the issue where he said that certain attorneys had refused to pay their annual Bar fees, despite the “clear language” of the Legal Profession Act.
“I have recently sent a letter out to the judges and magistrates directing that such lawyers have no right of audience in the courts. To their credit, the two presidents of the Bar, with whom I have worked, have raised this as a major issue, but until recently with the suggestion of Mr Barry Gale, QC, there has been no discussion of the appropriate remedy.”
All these are matters the Chief Justice said he would be discussing with the current president Tariq Khan, when they meet on July 23.