Consultation ends on controversial legal aid bill

| 13/07/2012

objection.jpg(CNS): Government must now decide whether to take note of the extensive comments it received from the Cayman’s Criminal Defence Bar Association on its latest efforts to address the vexing issue of funding the country’s mounting legal aid bill. Friday is the deadline for submissions on the proposed legislation, which will require all lawyers to work for free for 25 hours per year or pay $2,500 to help fund criminal justice for those that can’t afford an attorney. The proposals, however, were sharply criticised by the small pool of local lawyers that are currently doing legal aid work and said it would make things even worse. The CDBA said it was an unjustified attack on lawyers representing people facing criminal charges and in particular those doing legal aid work. 

The association 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, pointed to a long list of problems with the draft bill. John Furniss said that lawyers from across the various legal disciplines would not be in a position to assist with criminal defence cases and that limiting legal aid lawyers’ work load would create far more problems than it solves.

“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.

Although the Cayman Islands is home to more than 500 lawyers, most of them specialize in offshore finance and commercial work. Only a very small percentage of local advocates are criminal attorneys with no more than a dozen 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.

See CDBA submission here and proposed legislation here.

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  1. Rorschach says:

    That would be research of the Bovine Scatalogical kind..

  2. Anonymous says:

    Cayman needs a public defender office which would contain costs and ensure the availabilty of lawyers. There would also be less delay in hearing cases and prevent some private sector attorneys from believing that they are entitled to "legal aid" practices. Such an office could be set up under the Ministry of Community Development and headed by an attorney recruited in accordance with the procedure under the Public service Management Law. Not a political appointee. The private bar could still play a part and deal with any overflow of cases or cases where a QC may be needed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Public Defender’s Office would not solve whole (if any) of the problem, eg also need lawyers able to assist in family cases where children involved and other civil cases that may qualify. Also Public Defender’s Office may not attract the caliber of attorney needed unless salary is equivalent to private sector.

      Just because you are given legal aid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contribute over time. A good, realistic system of inital means assessment then clawback of fees from defendants who may not be able to pay all up front, but could afford an installment plan, with a workable system of collection, by payroll deduction or otherwise, could reduce the cost to the country considerably. The contributions payable by defendants (ie those who have recieved legal aid) in the Bill are a drop on the ocean. In other countries if assessed as able, some defendants in civil cases pay back all they are given over time, even if only a small amount per week/month.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This must obviously be another Ellio brainrush blessed by Father Mac and given effect by the ever-compliantAG.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Does this new tax/law have penalites for non-compliance? Who is going to enforce it? How much is the administrative cost going to be? 500,000 in cost to collect 2,500?

    Why not keep it simple and local friendly? have a legal aid contribution fee for every permit held by  a practicing attorney payable annually.  a simple immigration understanding with the receiving department can tract the permits and gov't can issue the annual invoice.

    This should include lawyers jetting in for appearences in special cases as well and will keep the local attorney pool (who usually work the legal aid cases anyways) from being taxed.

  5. I object says:

    I object to your objection of the use of the word objection….would the two counsels meet me in my chambers so we can sort this out!

    Meanwhile…the client is holding a bill and his breath…


    Attorneys always making a fuss and a fee…

    • Dick Shaughneary says:

      The plural of "counsel" is "counsel".

      • Frosty the Snowballs says:

        I object counsel… wait… I’m the judge. OK, fagetaboudit… carry on. Counsel: “Isn’t it possible dat da 2 yoots…” Judge: “What did you just say? Did you say ‘yoots’?” Counsel: “Yeah, da 2 yoots…”.

  6. Poppy says:

    A 5% levy on attorneys fees would pay for the legal aid system. Simple and most of it would be paid by foreigners.

    • Freakin' 'ell says:

      Either that or get your cousins to stop robbin’ and killin’ people. That would work too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should attorneys be paying for the legal aid system? Will there be a similar system for all doctors to be required to a portion of their income to pay for the public health care system? How about all accountants? All bankers? Real estate agents (after all they get paid $750K just for 'consultancy' services)? You just can't selectively tax a particular profession.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I'm a mutual funds lawyer, but I won't pay the $2500, give me a muder trial first…you know something easy for me to cut my teeth on then I'll work my way down to traffic offences.

    What happens when I hit the 25th hour for the year and I havent finished? 

    See how dumb this sounds.

    Just tax the entire profession and DONE, that would at least read as an honest initiative rather than this hogwash.

    Or better yet, let a law student article in the LA as a researcher and qualify, then give him a briefcase and send him down to court to sort a robbery case.


    • Angel of truth says:

      Poster 12:18 you are right, but this would not have to happened if the right thing was done a long time ago, as with other things that is takeing place on this island now.

      We welcomed people to this island and some of them turned around and threw dirt in our face and discriminated against us as if to say we should not be here, and they know better than us even though there country  is so screwed up.

      I am not directing this at you poster, i find what you say very true and respect your views, you did not go into this Caymanian entitlement mentality argument,thank you.


  8. Beagle Legal says:

    Why have a picture with the word "objection" in it, when no-one would use that Americanism in a Cayman Court room.  Please do not fuel ignorance like that.

    • Anonymous says:

      They might do if they'd learned their advocacy/completed their articles by doing research over at the LA.

    • Anon says:

      OBJECTION- arguementative!

    • Freakin' 'ell says:

      …and exactly how do you think barristers in Cayman should object when an improper question is asked or inadmissible evidence is proffered? Call out “Bingo!”? Yes, the objection is actually phrased a bit nicer: “Excuse me my Lord, but I must object to this line of questioning..”, but the point is the same.

    • Anonymous says:

      I object to your pettifogging comment!