An action has commenced in the High Court to bar attorney-at-law Vonda Pile from practising law in Barbados.
The application was filed on Monday by Tariq Khan, attorney for the claimant Norman McDonald Nurse, who wants Pile to be denied any right to be heard in any local court in her capacity as an attorney.
Khan, who is also president of the Barbados Bar Association, complained in an affidavit – a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY – that Pile was in breach of the provisions of the Legal Profession Act CAP 370 because her practising certificate was invalid since she had not paid her annual Bar subscription as required by law.
Khan is asking the court to make the following orders: That Pile’s practising certificate is invalid; that she is not entitled to a right of audience before any court, and that she pay the costs of this application by way of a Wasted Costs Order. Khan attached a draft of the order he wants the court to issue.
The Bar Association president is basing his application on seven grounds. Apart from her non-payment of the annual Bar subscription, Khan is arguing that the Legal Profession Act states that no person may practise law unless he/she is the holder of a valid practising certificate; that Pile is fully aware of these requirements and was notified by the Bar on March 26, 2015 that her failure to pay, rendered her certificate invalid; and that her deliberate election not to pay had led to the present application before the court.
In his affidavit, Khan recalled that on April 23 he had made a preliminary application before High Court Justice Dr Sonia Richards, in the absence of the parties to the claim, that Pile be denied a right to be heard before the same tribunal as legal representative for Florence Norde.
“In response, Ms Pile stated and relied on a resolution purportedly made by Judicial Council in 2008 that no action would be taken against attorneys-at-law who had failed to pay their annual subscription to the Bar Association, or words to that effect,” Khan’s affidavit added.
The document also noted this exchange and that Madam Justice Richards had determined that Pile produce copies of the alleged Judicial Council minutes and resolution in respect of the issue of fee payment and provide him with copies as well. Both lawyers were also directed to reappear before the court the following day to further determine the preliminary issue Khan had raised.
“In any event, the Honourable Judge determined that I issue a formal application before the Honourable Court setting out the relief I had sought by way of my preliminary application. The application herein is therefore made pursuant to the Order of the Honourable Judge and I have also included an order for wasted costs against Ms Vonda M Pile . . . ,” said Khan’s affidavit.
He also outlined that he had written Pile on March 26 in his capacity as president of the Bar informing her that she had failed to settle her annual fee to the association. He stated that he had also informed her that this was a breach of the Legal Profession Act and that her practising certificate would therefore be deemed invalid.
“On 22 April, 2015, I obtained confirmation from the Bar Association that Ms Vonda M. Pile has failed to date to pay her annual subscription to the Bar Association,” the court document said.
Khan is arguing that while Pile is relying on the minutes of the annual general meeting of the Bar in 2008 which noted agreement not to pursue the fee issue any further, no resolution of any such gathering has any binding effect whatsoever on the provisions of the statute which sets out the terms under which attorneys can obtain a valid practising certificate and enjoy the rights of audience by any court.
The matter is scheduled to be heard on June 29 at 9.30 a.m in judges’ chambers.