Lifeline for law students

Prospec­tive lawyers from T&T, who com­plet­ed their post-grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions in the Unit­ed King­dom, have been grant­ed a life­line in their bid to be called to the bar be­fore the end of the year. 

On Wednes­day, Ap­pel­late Judge Prakash Moo­sai grant­ed a stay of a re­cent judge­ment which struck down a law, which gave cit­i­zens with such qual­i­fi­ca­tions a short-cut in­to the pro­vi­sion over Cari­com na­tion­als. 

 

Moo­sai's de­ci­sion means that those per­sons can now seek to be ad­mit­ted to prac­tice dur­ing the next call to the bar sched­uled for late Oc­to­ber or ear­ly No­vem­ber. 

The ap­peal of the case is sched­uled to be heard by a three-mem­ber pan­el of the Court of Ap­peal in De­cem­ber. The court is ex­pect­ed to re­solve the is­sue be­fore an­oth­er batch of prospec­tive at­tor­neys, who are cur­rent­ly en­rolled in for­eign pro­grammes, may seek to utilise the pro­vi­sion, next year. 

Pre­sent­ing sub­mis­sions in the stay ap­pli­ca­tion, Rishi Dass, who rep­re­sent­ed the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al sug­gest­ed that the judge­ment af­fect­ed scores of cit­i­zens who were not at fault. 

He al­so sug­gest­ed that Grena­da-born St Lu­cian na­tion­al Di­anne Jhamil­ly Hadeed, who brought the law­suit, would not be prej­u­diced by the stay as she would not have been able to qual­i­fy even with the judge­ment. 

In the con­tro­ver­sial law­suit, Hadeed, who re­sides in Trinidad, chal­lenged Sec­tion 15 (1A) of the Le­gal Pro­fes­sion Act. The seg­ment of the leg­is­la­tion gives T&T cit­i­zens who do not ob­tain a post-grad­u­ate Le­gal Ed­u­ca­tion Cer­tifi­cate (LEC) from the Hugh Wood­ing Law School an av­enue to be ad­mit­ted to prac­tice law. 

Cit­i­zens, who ob­tain post-grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions in the Unit­ed King­dom or an­oth­er Com­mon­wealth ju­ris­dic­tion and are ad­mit­ted to prac­tice in those coun­tries, qual­i­fy un­der the sec­tion af­ter com­plet­ing a short six-month course at the law school in­stead of the com­pet­i­tive two-year LEC pro­gramme, which has lim­it­ed spaces but is open to all Cari­com na­tion­als. 

In his judge­ment, Kokaram ac­knowl­edged that there were le­git­i­mate con­cerns which the leg­is­la­tion sought to ad­dress in­clud­ing lim­it­ed spaces at the law school and the need to de­vel­op this coun­try's le­gal fra­ter­ni­ty. 

How­ev­er, he sug­gest­ed that they were not jus­ti­fi­able as he ques­tioned why there was a dis­tinc­tion be­tween T&T cit­i­zens and Cari­com na­tion­als. 

Kokaram al­so not­ed that the Gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted that the leg­is­la­tion of­fend­ed Cari­com treaties which T&T is a par­ty but claimed that it was done to help build a cadre of lawyers in T&T.

In his judge­ment, Kokaram de­cid­ed to strike down the leg­is­la­tion as op­posed to amend­ing it to in­clude Cari­com na­tion­als. 

In­stead, he ad­vised Par­lia­ment to amend the leg­is­la­tion or ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

The AG's Of­fice chose the lat­ter op­tion. 

Kokaram's de­ci­sion did not af­fect at­tor­neys who were ad­mit­ted be­fore it was de­liv­ered, as it did not have a ret­ro­spec­tive ef­fect. 

Reporter: Derek Achong

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