Chief Justice Rawlins appoints Disciplinary Committee for complaints against lawyers

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 10TH 2012(CUOPM)- Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, His Lordship Mr. Justice Sir Hugh Rawlins has appointed the members of the Disciplinary Committee under the Legal Profession Act.

Chairman is Mr. Anthony Gonsalves and Vice Chairman is Mr. Emile Ferdinand.

Other members are Mr. Charles Wilkin, CMG, Q.C., (ex-officio); Mr. Tapley Seaton, Q.C.; Ms. Patricia Dublin-Lewis; Mr. Arundranauth Gossai; Mr. Jeffery Nisbett and Mr. Mark Brantley. The Registrar or Deputy Registrar is to be Secretary of the Committee.

According to the Legal Profession Act the Disciplinary Committee is established for the purpose of dealing with complaints against attorneys-at-law.

A person who alleges that an act of professional misconduct has been committed by an attorney-at-law other than the Attorney General or a law officer, may apply to the Committee to require

The attorney-at-law to answer allegations contained in an affidavit made by that person.

In any matter or hearing before any court, where the court considers that an act referred to in subsection (1) has been committed by an attorney-at-law other than the Attorney General or a law officer, the court may make or cause the Registrar to make an application to the Committee in respect of the attorney-at-law under that subsection.

A complaint against an attorney-at-law for misconduct shall not be brought more than one year after (a) the date of occurrence of the facts giving rise to the complaint; or (b) the date of knowledge of the facts giving rise to the complaint of the complainant.

The Disciplinary Committee shall have the powers of the Court to summon witnesses, call for the production of books and documents and examine witnesses and parties concerned on oath.

The law states that a conviction of an attorney-at-law of a criminal offence may, for the purposes of disciplinary proceedings against him, be accepted by the Committee as proof of his having committed the offence.

It also states that on the hearing of an application, the Committee may (a) dismiss the application; (b) impose on the attorney-at-law to whom the application relates, such fine as it thinks proper; or (c) reprimand the attorney-at-law to whom the application relates; or (d) make such order as to costs as it thinks fit, and in addition, except where the application is dismissed, the Committee may order the attorney-at-law to pay the applicant or person aggrieved such sum by way of compensation and reimbursement and such further sum in respect of expenses incidental to the hearing of the application and the consideration of the report as it thinks fit

The removal from the Roll of the name of an attorney at-law shall not be a bar to the continuation of the hearing and determination of an application.

Where the Committee is of the opinion that a case has been made out which justifies punishment more severe than may be imposed by it under this section, such as suspension from practice or removal from the Roll, the Committee shall forward to the Chief Justice and to the Attorney General a copy of the proceedings before it and its findings thereon.

Where an attorney-at-law is ordered by the Committee to pay compensation or to make reimbursement to an applicant or other aggrieved person, any compensation or reimbursement shall be taken into account in the assessment of damages recoverable against the attorney-at-law in any civil proceedings brought against him by the applicant or other aggrieved person in respect of any act or default which was the subject matter of the application which gave rise to the order of the Committee.

An attorney-at-law aggrieved by a decision given or penalty imposed by the Committee may appeal against that decision or penalty to the Court of Appeal.

It also states that upon an appeal under this section, the Court of Appeal may affirm or set aside the decision or penalty appealed against or may substitute any other decision or penalty which the Committee could have made or imposed or remit the matter to the Committee for a rehearing.

Without prejudice to any other rule of law or to any rule of practice whereby the Supreme Court is empowered to take disciplinary action against a person admitted to practice as an attorney-at-law before it, it is hereby declared that the Court has the power to take disciplinary action in accordance with rules of court made for the purpose under the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Act with respect to his professional conduct against an attorney-at-law.

The Court may also order the removal from the Roll the name of the attorney-at-law against whom disciplinary proceedings have been instituted; order suspending the attorney-at-law from practice for such time as the Court deems fit; order as to costs, as regards both the proceedings before it and the proceedings before the Committee as the Court deems fit or such further or other order as the circumstances of the case may require.

The Court shall sit as a full court consisting of three judges.

The attorney-at-law whose professional conduct is the subject of any disciplinary proceedings before the Court shall be entitled to a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal from any decision or other determination of the Court in such proceedings

Attorney-at-law shall not knowingly hire a person who is or was a clerk to an attorney-at-law but is not himself or herself an attorney-at-law and has been convicted by a court of larceny, embezzlement or fraudulent conversion; or of any other criminal offence in respect of any money or property belonging to or held or controlled by an attorney-at-law by whom he is or was employ.

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