Legal aid lawyers excluded

| 16/12/2009

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Islands legal news(CNS): The committee which has been established to explore the government’s proposed changes to the way legal aid is managed has already caused controversy as none of the lawyers currently undertaking legal aid work or anyone from the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has been invited to take part. A release from Government Information Services (GIS) on behalf of the legal drafter’s office confirmed on Tuesday that Elio Solomon, Steve McField (left), Valdis Foldats and Delene Cacho from the courts, along with Steve Moore from the Governor’s office will form the committee with Cheryl Nesblit from legal drafting as chair.

The Law Society wrote to the governor on 7 December pointing out possible conflicts of interest with members of the committee and suggested that Lloyd Sampson, whose firm conducts considerable legal aid work, and Sarah Collins, a lawyer and member of the Human Rights Committee, be included. However, the committee has already started its work and neither attorney has been invited to join.

The issue of Steve McField, who stands to benefit from the committee’s findings, being the only practicing lawyer on the review committee has raised a number of questions about the committee’s objectivity.  The Law Society has also expressed concern that none of the professional legal bodies in the Cayman Islands were consulted on the composition of the review team.

According to government, it appointed the Legal Aid Review Committee to look at the proposals put forward by McField and Theresa Pitcairn to establish an independent legal services office. The GIS release stated that it held its first meeting on Monday, 14 December, and is due to meet again tomorrow, Wednesday 16 December.  The committee has reportedly been asked to provide a streamlined eligibility test for legal aid and to report on the advantages or disadvantages between the proposed legal services office and the current judicial administered system and is expected to finalize its report by 1 February 2010. 

The proposals for the legal aid office were adopted by Premier McKeeva Bush during the Finance Committee stage of the budget debate after a motion submitted by Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour. Bush then took over from his back bench MLA and announced that he would be accepting the motion and reducing the chief justice’s allocation for the 2009/10 budget and placing the funds under a new line item in his ministry for the establishment of the independent legal aid office, as suggested by McField and Pitcairn.

During the discussion that ensued, it became apparent that this decision was made without consultation with the chief justice or the attorney general. Moreover, the announcement was made very late in the evening on Friday, 12 October, in the Legislative Assembly as the business of Finance Committee was drawing to a close on the government’s 2009/10 budget and not as part of a proposed bill or debate in the normal course of legislative business.

Considerable controversy then followed the announced change. Concerns were raised publicly by the Law Society, the Criminal Defence Bar Association and the Human Rights Committee, as well as more quietly by the chief justice. The former governor, Stuart Jack, then stepped in before his departure and announced that a review would take place before any changes were made to the way legal aid was managed.

In a statement on 11 November, the Governor’s Office said an effective legal aid system was fundamental to the administration of justice and adequate legal representation would be required by the Bill of Rights. It was stated that the system needed to be administered as cost-effectively as possible, and while the government is entitled to consider how this can be achieved, the human rights requirements had to be met. The governor said that it was therefore important to consult stakeholders.

However, the HR Committee is not represented, and although the governor suggested that the committee should include members of the legal profession, as echoed by the Law Society, the spirit intended was to go beyond the one lawyer that had proposed the changes to the legal aid in the first place and to include the wider profession, in particular those working under the current legal aid systems.

CNS has contacted Acting Governor Donovan Ebanks to ask if he has concerns about the possible conflict of interest on the committee and the lack of representation from any of the legal defenders who have experience  working under the present legal aid system, and is awaiting a response.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Please name the Caymanians doing just fine in the legal industry – and your analysis of Theresa in particular is wrong and insulting.

    • O'Really says:

      I suggest you look at the make up of the councils of the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association. True born Caymanians are well represented on the current councils, as well as on the lists of past presidents. This does not include of course many younger Caymanians pursuing well paying careers who are not council members.

      It is not necessary to be a senior partner in a major firm to being doing     "fine."


    • Anonymous says:

      To Sun 11:56.

      Winston Connolly, Sheredan Brooks, Wanda Ebanks, Truman Bodden, Suzanne Bothwell, Jacqueline Smellie, Sharon Roulstone, David Ritch, Orren Merren, Arthur Hunter, the late (and greatly missed) Frank Banks,  Patrick Schmidt (until personal circumstances intervened) Woody Terry…………….

      All studied long hours, worked hard AND gave/are giving value for money.

      • Anonymous says:

        Only two (Winston and Wanda) in all the major "offshore industry" firms. Wow. Given the hundred+ non Caymanians doing well in those firms I thought your list may have been better. You should also consider: 

        Winston – ex Walkers,

        Sharon – ex Walkers.

        David – ex Hunters

        Truman – retired.

        Arthur – retired.

        Orren – retired.

        Frank Banks – retired (pre untimely and very sad demise)

        Suzanne – Government

        Sheridan and Woody struck out on their own.


        When all these leading Caymanians of past generations retire who is replacing them? Think about that – and ask yourself why?


        (Hint … it is nothing to do with working hard and long hours)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Clearly, this is an idea that should be shelved at this time. No committee, particularly with Mr. McField on it as one of the concept proponents, will convince the population that it operated properly, no matter what the outcome.

    There has been a full report already done on this matter already. lets use that as the guide. In many court cases, the two defendants have separate and individual rights…how can one office represent them both?? it is a simple as that to know this cannot work and will cost more. What government needs to do is to ween Caymanians off the “freebies” and the expectation that Government should pay for everything (you know what occurs at election time now)

    Mr. McField, however, may have an valid idea of having Government provide free legal advise in regard to issues OUTSIDE of the court system. Maybe that component can be pulled out of this train wreck and the population can decide if they want to pay MORE for legal services for the indigent and the less fortunate, whose rights may likely be limited based on their ability to pay.

    But it is time to shelve the base idea and move the money back to where it can be independently overseen….I am sure some of the Lawyers like Samson can use the funds that are long due to him. We run the risk at this point of no lawyer wanting to participate in this area in the future which would be a shame.

  3. Portia says:

    No legal aid lawyers on the committee? Audi alteram partem.

    McField, the turkey voting against Christmas, on the committee? Nemo iudex in causa sua.

    How many Latin scholars do you think there are in Cayman government circles?


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes peoples, we are here pointing out the absolute corruption that is taking place in our Beloved Isles Cayman and do you think McKeeva even has the slightest worry or fear of what we think or say. No! That is because we just talk and do nothing and he will carry on doing what he wants, when he wants as he knows nothing will happen except that we will just keep talking, so peoples I think it is time we all stand together and stop Cayman becoming a Dictatorship, which it fast becoming! McKeeva has a few Caymanians that he has given well paid "consulting" jobs that will stick by what he says or does but we cannot let that stop us from saving Cayman and doing what we have to do. Why should a very few "Caymanians" benefit from corruption while the Vast majority of Real Caymanians suffer in OUR own Country!

      • Joe Banana says:

        Too late for that.  It is now his country not yours.  Just try and take it back. See what happens.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a crock!  I reckon Steve McField will be voting against the enterprise that he expects to reward him.  And I agree with the very intelligent posting thatasserts that if McField does not see the conflict of interest and recuse himself he is not fit to head up this very sensitive agency.

      So this stacked committee is to evaluate the best way forward with legal aid:  Bush has his two plants in the committee — McField and Elio.  (Elio was originally delegated responsibility to set up the legal aid office.)  So he is going to be objective?  Right!

      Let us not go through the motions — again!  How ya all thunk this is going to work out! Another fuitile effort.

      If this is an example of how this administration is going to resolve dispute, it is most worrying.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Is the Auditor General going to be on the committee that makes a decision on whether he will win the contest for his position?  Of course not it is not to Mac’s benefit.  How then can Mr. McField sit on the committee that decides if his job will be approved?  I am sure when the governor forced a committee on this that the appointed one is not what he had in mind.

    If government insists on this type of action I urge the UK to step in as our current government continues to prove that we are not mature enough to govern ourselves.  Once again we are being lead down that proverbial “slippery slope”.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Given the composition of the Committee those local crabs have nothing to worry about if their concern is that the Caymanians will have their way.

    For example, the Law Comission Review ("LCR") representative that chairs the Committee was a part of the same LCR that proposed to keep the legal aid being administered by the Courts.

    The Clerk of Courts is on the Committee.  I wonder how he will vote?

    The Governor’s office has his representative has his representative there. So i wonder how he will vote.

    Then that leaves the two locals – outnumbered, outgunned, yet again -poor Caymanians.

    When will they learn to stop being crabs.

  6. Joe Banana says:

    This should make it official.  Grand Cayman is a third world Banana Republic with its own dictator.  From here on out let it be know to the world that Grand Cayman (lets hope he dosen’t chang the name soon) is a place that says one thing and means another. I pity the people that he says he represents.

    • Dr KANANGA says:

      The Government acquisition of private land for ’emergency government projects’, the 24 hour hot line to the world bank and the National anthem that people can jog along to will soon be here!

  7. Anonymous says:

    How exciting!

    I wonder if Steve McField will vote in favour of awarding himself $1.2 million or not?

  8. Intentions says:

    The availability of a a defence for a fair trial looks like it is coming second to a) a slush fund for "nation building" and b) providing jobs for unemployed political allies of Mr. Bush.

  9. Caypolitics Truthseeker says:

    On any reputable committee, it is required ethical procedure that a member shall declare any conflict of interest and withdraw from a vote on such matters. How Steve McField can sit on a committee to decide if he should be part of a legal aid panel is beyond me. Only in McCayman!

    • O'Really says:

      You are absolutely right.

      In fact Steve McField’s presence on the committee ought to rule him out for consideration to be employed in the new legal aid office because either:

      1) he is incapable of recognising the glaring real conflict of interest he has and therefore lacks the professional judgement required by the new position; or

      2) he recognises the conflict of interest but doesn’t care, in which case he lacks the professional ethics required for the new position.



  10. Anonymous says:

    another step towards direct rule…..

    i ask steve mcfield to resign and concentrate on his delightful radio talk-in show contributions

  11. Rule Brittania! says:

    Brittania rules the waves! Can anyone say Turks and Caicos? You all making plenty work for this new Guvna already!

  12. Anonymous says:

    from one mess to the next…..well Valdis Foldats is a VERY sensible and fair man, infact he almost single handedly runs the Court. I am sure that his imput will be very valuable.

    However to have NO ONE from the HRC or those that conduct legal aid on a day to day basis is effectively a waste of time and a pointless review.

    Lets hope Mr Foldats can save the day again!

  13. Anonymous says:

    UNBELIEVABLE! When is this stupid udp bull gonna stop? This committee is once again just a bunch of udp cronies & "yes people" & there only to do as the master orders! Surely this can’t be good for the legal system, or Cayman in general! Talk about about a dictatorship! UNBELIEVABLE!

  14. what a mess says:

    Another example of corruption of the process.

    This is yet another glaring example of Mac going to all lengths to do whatever he wants. More akin to dictatorship than democracy.

    Hopefully the UK will step in to ensure there might be some degree of objectivity by such a commitee. Because this current make up of the commitee is loaded with conflict of interests.

    Mac and CIG, you cannot and will not be allowed to continue to "speak" of good governance, transparency and accountabilty when it is politically correct…then go ahead and continue with the same old, same old (my way or no way) mentality.

    Steve on the commitee to decide if Steve should head up a new Legal Aid Clinic…even a child will know this is a conflict. And no one from HRC or current Legal Aid reps?

    Wha una tinkin bout?…oh yeah, self!…personal greed and power.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Mr Mc Field and Mrs Pitcairn are well known as failed lawyers who have been unable to hack it in Cayman’s competitive jurisdiction. It is NOT because they are Caymanians-there are plenty Caymanians doing just fine.

    The idea was a good one, the execution (pure Mac) terrible.