Bill ‘attacks’ criminal lawyers

| 11/06/2012

article-2110530-120A2CD6000005DC-938_224x423.jpg(CNS): Members of the Criminal Defence Bar Association (CDBA) have described government’s proposed legal aid bill as an unjustified attack on lawyers representing people facing criminal charges in the local courts, and in particular those doing legal aid work.  The association believes that the bill could make things worse when it comes to trying to tackle the mounting legal aid issue for a number of reasons. It also warned that having unqualified and uninsured lawyers from across the legal profession doing pro bono work representing people charged with crimes could present significant human rights problems.

In the submission, as part of the draft legal aid bill's discussion period, the CDBA president, on behalf of the entire membership, points to a long list of problems with the draft bill. John Furniss states that lawyers from across the various legal disciplines will not be in a position to assist with criminal defence cases and limiting legal aid lawyers’ work load will create far more problems than it solves.

The association also points to the unfairness of paying legal aid lawyers for only 45 minutes for every hour they work in court and notes that the bill will do nothing to address the existing shortage of qualified criminal lawyers practicing on island that are willing and able to do legal aid work.

Although the association welcomes some elements of the law, which was made public last month, Furniss, who says the CDBA was not consulted about the draft bill before it was published, has pointed to dozens of problems that will make the bill unworkable. He said the cap on public defence work is designed to share work among attorneys but fails to recognize the fact that a pool of such lawyers simply does not exist.

“The Cayman Islands already suffers from a chronic shortage of attorneys willing and able to undertake publicly funded work,” he wrote in the submission paper, adding that such a cap could be the death knell for the legal aid system.

Although the Cayman Islands is home to significant number of lawyers (more than five hundred), most of them specialize in offshore finance and other specialist commercial work. Only a very small percentage of local lawyers are practicing in criminal work and no more than a dozen of those are willing to do the critical legal aid work.

In an effort to try and address the escalating costs of legal aid to the public purse, brought about by the increase in serious crime for which defendants must have access to free legal representation, the government proposed a plan to force lawyers to do pro bono work. But, Furniss warns, this creates significant dangers when they must take on work for which they are not qualified and, more importantly, insured.

He said that the proposed pro bono scheme, which attorneys can avoid if they pay a fee of $2500, amounts to a tax on lawyers and questions why they should be the only people in society responsible for funding the legal aid system when the issue is a much wider one.

All of the lawyers undertaking legal aid work already do a considerable amount of pro bono work as a matter of course but many more will simply not be a position to do so without breaking the lawyer’s code of conduct or creating human rights issues.

On behalf of the CDBA, Furniss calls on government to re-think several of the clauses in the bill in order to ensure that the system continues to work and those charged with crimes continue to have access to proper representation, which will be legally required under the Bill of Rights that will be implemented this November.

See CDBA submission below.

Category: Crime

Comments (36)

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  1. Dennie Warren Jr. says:

    Once those in this British colony who love to divide and conquer are finished with the lawyers, they will once again turn their attention to the rest of us, and because some dislike others more than they dislike colonialism, those who are dividing residents will most likely succeed.  Sure, they may withdraw the Bill, but once reelected they will bring it back and pass it.

  2. Raffael says:

    When both the UDP and PPM were passing these draconian laws and measures to take the average citizen's freedoms and rights away and our rights to privacy because it sounded like a good idea for these law enforcement minions they have in charge to have these powers,they falsely made us believe it was going to make us all safe and there wasn't a word from the legal fraternity running this place.

    When a Human Rights Commission, run and directed by Law Enforcement hawks and their well placed stooges, sit down and give the ok and make statements like we have no problem with this incompetent and corrupt law enforcement apparatus tapping our phones and reading our emails, the legal fraternity said nothing and failed to act about this outrageous situation and they don't seem to comprehend that it all costs money.  

    Now that the government has turned its sights on them to pay for this big system that gives us everything we want they find it hard to make a small contribution when they've been silent all along regarding the other issues.

    Guess they never thought it would come home to them eventually………..

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hey, how hard can it be to go up against the public prosecutors that Cayman has? I think you corporate types are underrating yourselves.

  4. The Thinker says:

    If you want a fair and speedy justice system the first thing you should do is get rid of all the lawyers!

  5. Thunder Storm says:

    I think this topic is the beginning of something we can work towards with the intent of achieving something great.

     

    However, my concern is, how do we stop a rampant, gluttonous, self-centered and frivolous govt, like the present one, from controlling and spending the money,,,,,,,,,to cover expenses icurred whilsr taking a fee ride to Cuba for squanderous excuses and parties,

     

    As statistics have shown, not everyone has "clean hands and pure hearts"

  6. Anonymous says:

    This whole Legal Aid system needs overhauling, I know a father that out of spitefulness the mother has not allowed the child to see the father for over four years now,  yet he pays maintanance, he went to the legal aid office and asked for help to get an attorney to help him see his child, he was denied. When it finally ran through the cours after four years and Social Services getting involved the courts ordered the mother to allow the father visitation rights, the mother went to Legal Aid and got a Lawyer through the Legal Aid System to try and stop him from seeing the child?????? The little buddy system they have going on there is absurd! On top of all that, how do you qualify for legal aid making $2700.00 dollars a month, and collecting an additional $1680.00 in maintanance? Like I say Government can save a lot of money if they monitors who gets approved for Legal Aid! Just my two cents worth!  

  7. Anonymous says:

    A simple $10,000 fee per attorney is more than enough to achieve the aims of this.  I am sure partners will be able to live on $1,900,000 instead of $2,000,000 as part of the privilege of not paying income tax on their massive incomes or capital gains taxes on the massive pot of gold.

    • Cayman says:

      Thats $1,990,000 you mathematical idiot

      • Anonymous says:

        For the reasons in my response above my math is better than your manners.

      • Euclid says:

        Rude, aggressive, self-righteous and incapable of business modelling.  Have you thought about becoming a UDP politician?

    • Anonymous says:

      Errr….shouldn't that be $1,990,000.00?? Sure glad you are not my accountant!!  LOL

      • Anonymous says:

        No. I was referring to a hypothetical profit impact on partners of having to meet such fees within a firm so my numbers were more considered than you rushed to assume.

      • Anonymous says:

        We all know there are several thousand finance lawyers here who are not paying their way.  If you have a couple thousand of them at one large firm, that's 2,000 x $10,000 divided by 200 fat-cat partners, which equals roughly $100,000 less for each partner.  

        • Anonymous says:

          Are you paying your way? This is a tax so why should you not pay like everyone else? Why just lawyers if it’s a collection of tax. Are we now a socialist country with distribution of wealth. These lawyers work and work hard after years of sacrificing to be educated. Same with accountants. So why should you feel you should live off their backs, short of pettiness and smallmindedness. Of I forget, same way you abuse domestic helpers in this country and have them pay their own work permit fees and withhold their salaries such that it is (more like slave wages) and hold their work permits over their heads. Time to grow up and stop resenting those amongst you that contribute to your overall welfare.

          • Anonymous says:

            What is your definition of socialist? Does'nt  the mother country fall into that programme with the social benefits over there?

            • Anonymous says:

              Were you of the impression that only the educated ‘fat cats’ pay taxes in the Uk to fund their programmes?! Be very careful what you wish for. If its taxation you want rest assured business has no reason to stay here unless it makes economic sence. If things continue as is you may well find yourself having to help to pay those bloated social services that we pay for our citizens who don’t think they need to work because they are entitled! Business left Bahamas back in the 70’s because of exactly this attitude and it moved to Cayman. It can move again to our competitors nipping at our heels. Politicians should be responsible and tell you that rather than fueling division for the election.

          • Anonymous 15:09 says:

            I couldn't agree more.  Now get a sense of humour.

        • in credible says:

          We meaning you and Bush?

    • Anonymous says:

      Er, have you read the proposed law Fermat?  They want to cap legal aid income at $65,000 per year for lawyers with less than 5 years experience.  On your calculations that will leave them owing $35,000 per year to the goverment!

    • Fedup says:

      Intitled much?

    • in credible says:

      So they have to pay because they are NOT intitled to all their pay?  Becasue of NOT paying income tax?  So all of us are next?  Excluding civil service of course.

  8. Legal Tangle up says:

    Attack attack they are getting off very light that should be $2500 per month and in fact it should have been on a graduated scale the more you make the more you should have to contribute.Yes some of these high flyers would come down a couple of notches out of their glass towers and expensive sport cars. Can you imagine Mr Big shot Smithers representing little JoJo Chicken wings Bush mann now thats justice. The average house hold in Cayman pays that in bills per month. YO dogg how u going to get me outta dis ya charge Blood! Hell i would pay that just to see the look on old Smithers face.

    • in credible says:

      Intitled much?

    • Anonymous says:

      If I were JoJo I would not want Mr Big Fat Corporate lawyer defending me in court….probably end up with being found guilty when not and then with double the sentence….Criminal Law is quite a specialized niche arera of pracitce, and although TV shows make it look glamerous, really it is the most un-glamerous area of the profession……

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great plan, Mr. Bush.  Appropriate money intended to be used for legal aid and then require lawyers to provide those legal aid services out of their own pockets.  As Mel Brooks once said, "it's great to be the king!"

     

  10. Anonymous says:

    Finally someone who understands the stupidity of this proposed bill.

  11. Knot S Smart says:

    I have said this often.

    Govt needs to set up a Public Defender's Office and staff it with one or two full time lawyers…

    That is normally how it is done…

    • Anonymous says:

      And then tie the Public Defenders Office to the Law School, where Caymanians can obtain their articles as well.

      This should be in addition to the proposal.

  12. Anonymous says:

    At last some common sense is being expressed on this issue.

    • Anonymous says:

      95% of the Lawyers in Cayman are not Caymanians, and their big salaries and commission which they make off Cayman is not spent here.  Which Caymanian  would call Barbecue Sardines Dinner?  Itotally agree with the Bill, and the quicker it passes the better for any poor strugling Cayman lawyer.

      • TaxiMan says:

        You will find that most expats do not purchase big ticket items here, and I don't blame them.      With no job security from year to year via work permit renewals and the eventual rolling over after 7 years  why would they burden themselves with the hassle. This was my main concern when the rollover was finally introduced – but no-one listened.

        • Anonymous says:

          No lawyer has ever been rolled over. Plenty of them should be, however.

          • Anonymous says:

            No lawyer has ever been rolled over? I think you'll find this to be untrue.

          • Anonymous says:

            Just FYI a criminal defense lawyer who did plenty of legal aid work was rolled over a few years ago. Go figure.

      • Huh? says:

        Which will be why the Caymanian Bar – nor open to expats – are against it of course.  They are actively resisting something that's to their advantage!

         

        PS Not sure i know many expat corporate lawyers here who would call BBQ sardines dinner either!

  13. Anonymous says:

    The moment I, and many of my colleagues, read this proposal we came to the exact same conclusions.  They expect corporate lawyers to trapse down to court and handle criminal and civil offences when they have little or no litigation/advocacy experience and that raises huge human rights issues ie fiar trial for the client.  This is no more than a not so cleverly hidden tax on the profession to get money into the legal aid fund. Just tax the profession then instead of trying to force attorneys who never wanted to litigate and have no experience litigating to attend at court.  I'd use up 25 hours merely learning which pleading to use and what discovery is needed and which cases support what.  And then what happens at 25 hours and 1 minute?  Pencils down, I've done my time so if your case hasnt been decided upon oh well?  This proposal makes no sense and when coupled with the other proposal for articles in the LA as a researcher and the result is a big hot steamy pile of doodoo.