Express Editorial : Daily

Of attempts to centre the interests of “the people” at Monday’s ceremonial opening of the 2019/2020 law term, Prof Rose-Marie Belle Antoine’s focus on the high cost of justice is likely to resonate loudest.

At the very end of the justice system, particularly its criminal justice component, reside those multitudes of unprivileged and under-served citizens who know only too well the truth of the professor’s analysis that lawyers’ fees are directly related to citizens’ participation in the system that ultimately adjudicates their futures.

Among the more socially aware and human rights focused deans at The UWI in St Augustine, Prof Antoine would know of what she speaks. “As a Caribbean woman,” she declared at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, “I am conscious that they [lawyers’ fees in Trinidad and Tobago] are among the highest, if not the highest, in the Caribbean.” In so saying, Prof Antoine has brought to the national table of contents a topic sure to invite further commentary, scrutiny and numerous stories from those who find themselves in need of professional legal services.

Prof Antoine also sought to guide the conversation towards the system of a fused profession, understood to mean dismissal of the traditional distinction between solicitors and barristers. Indeed, that division has been described as outdated and irrelevant in many jurisdictions that have undone it. That division, Prof Antoine suggests, may account for the high legal fees charged by lawyers who factor in the cost of instructing attorneys.

Get caught up with news from the news leader
Subscribe now and get access to the Trinidad Express E-paper
SUBSCRIBE/ LOG IN

To those lawyers who feel they deserve the high fees they currently earn, she bluntly pointed out that their training came at a social cost to the country that sacrificed taxpayers’ dollars, paid in by all, to provide the educational opportunities for those who eventually qualify and are called to the bar. “Should the spoils be for us alone?” she asked, and tabled a recommendation of a system of contingency fees, that is, fees that become payable only after a matter has been successfully disposed by the attorney-at-law.

This is likely to be an uncomfortable topic for many lawyers who have become accustomed to the current fee structure and for whom the profession might have appealed precisely because of its potential for healthy financial rewards. If nothing else, a point about the social responsibility of lawyers, particularly at this time when wanton criminality of the blue and white collar varieties deposit many citizens at lawyers’ doors, has been made.

The conversation will continue, and in it, the Law Association will have a key role and conceivably several alternatives. In that conversation, the dominant consideration must be the heart of the matter, expressed by Prof Antoine, as citizens’ right to be heard, to participate and to obtain remedies in the judicial system. Whatever obstructs those rights must be remedied in the interest of all.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

HAITI’S economy is paralysed. Demonstrators fight police, block roads and loot stores several times a week. President Jovanel Moise is avoiding public appearances. And many people from political parties old and new are vying to become the country’s next leader.

SOME readers may remember a time when most Caribbean economies were dominated by family owned and run companies. Often linked by a family name to an older generation of Caribbean businessman but much less so women, they were usually paternalistic, influential and often philanthropic.

On Monday morning just after eight, my street was teeming with URP personnel. Two crews, plus senior people offering apologies for the experiences I had described in my column the Saturday before. I was taken aback.

We did not medal in the recent World Championships in Doha but our country’s name appeared in the lights, and there really is no bigger advertisement for us than when our athletes are on the world stage.

My company is a local manufacturing enterprise that officially launched many years ago. We take pride in what we do. We have honoured our commitment to excellent service and quality products, being a supplier to all government agencies and major organisations throughout T&T.

As much as everyone wants to show disgust over the situation at the Arouca rehabilitation facility that was raided earlier this week, everyone should equally acknowledge that it never would have existed unless it served a need.