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How should the independence and security of lawyers be protected from political pressure? Should the Executive be able to remove lawyers from the Roll on grounds of professional misconduct? Or, should this power firmly reside in a Disciplinary Committee, set up by an Act of Parliament under the Legal Profession Act, from which gives lawyers a further a right of appeal? Should a lay client alone have the right to bring proceedings, or should the Disciplinary Committee, or even the Attorney-General, also have that right? The question arose in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St Lucia and ended up in the Privy Council in London recently. This case is telling because the Court had powers both under its inherent jurisdiction and under an Act of Parliament to discipline lawyers. Should the Court's powers under an Act of Parliament have superseded any other inherent powers to deal with the same question? Moreover, what if the Government failed to promulgate any rules to provide for a proper statutory machinery under the Legal Profession Act to deal with the discipline of an attorney-at-law? In the case at hand, the Court decided to invoke its inherent jurisdiction. This article argues that this was a mistake. It set a bad precedent. Many countries, (and not least in the Caribbean) do not have proper rules promulgated under a Legal Profession Act and this decision gave a green light to such countries. This article also argues that unfortunately, the Privy Council too did not deem it necessary to resolve the question of the appropriate legal mechanism for removing lawyers from the Roll. This has left open the wider constitutional question of what contemporary liberal democracies, which cherish the role of lawyers in society, should do to safeguard their position from political interference.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2008
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Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.