Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson warned the island’s newest crop of attorneys-at-law to be aware of the serious consequences that could arise as a result of any ethical missteps.
His plea came after 45 lawyers, the majority of whom were females, took the oath of office in a special sitting of the Supreme Court Friday morning.
“Your reputation . . . in a very real sense, it is your most valuable possession. Ordinarily, fact and impression can differ and so, in most other professions, it is easy to cure a misperception by pointing to the truth and the fact. It is not so easy in ours because we are involved in the dispensation of justice which should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done,” Sir Marston said.
The Chief Justice told the gathering, which also included other members of the legal profession, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, Registrar Barbara Cooke-Alleyne, as well as family and friends, that if any attorney was perceived “to act as a rule” in an “unprincipled” and “unjust” manner, it would result in negative consequences.
“One dishonest lawyer often leads to the wholesale castigation of the entire profession. Whether you like it or not, you are your brother’s or sister’s keeper, and any improvident acts by you will tarnish not only your reputation but that of the whole profession.
“And so, my request is that you should be aware of the serious consequences, which will attend any ethical missteps. Ensure that you are perceived as a consummate professional, and that good reputation will follow you,” the Chief Justice advised.
He also called on this new bath of attorneys to considered practising in different aspects of the profession especially criminal law.
“There is a huge backlog of pending criminal cases in our court system and one of the several reasons for it is that there are very few lawyers practising in the field of criminal law. You are needed,” Sir Marston declared, even as he reminded the attorneys-at-law that becoming an officer of the court came with “very awesome responsibilities”.
“You are at the start of what I wish will be a long career, but how illustrious it will be depends, in no small measure, on you. It depends on your willingness to work and not cut corners, on your ability to come prepared for court or for whatever you are required to do,” he added.
The island’s top judicial officer also informed the lawyers that the law often underwent change whether by “legislation, court decision or practice direction” and it was their duty to keep up with those changes, one of which was the recent launch of the court-annexed mediation pilot project in both the High Court and the Magistrates Court.