Bar Council Scolds Veteran Attorney

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Wednesday 5th September, 2018-Queen’s Counsel Sir Gerald Watt has been scolded by the Bar Association for statements made on this station approximately two weeks ago.

In a statement issued last evening, the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Council outlined that it views the comments made by Sir Gerald Watt Q.C., especially where he used the adjective “madness” to describe the Judge’s decision, as unfortunate, troubling, and disavow such negative comments.

The prominent attorney and Speaker of the House of Representatives was speaking on the ruling of a High Court Judge granting an injunction that halted the construction of the international airport in Barbuda.

The Bar Council stated that pursuant to paragraph 34 of Part A of the Code of Ethics (with which all Attorneys-at Law are required to comply), it is the duty of every Attorney at Law “to maintain a respectful attitude towards the Court”, and to refrain from engaging “in undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to the Court”.

It continued that an attorney-at-law is also required to “encourage respect for the Courts and the Judges”, and “shall not support unjust criticisms of Judges and Magistrates”. Further, as an advocate, an Attorney-at-Law should endeavor never to assert his personal belief in his client’s innocence or in the justice of his client’s cause.

In registering it displeasure, the council declared “It is therefore completely improper for any Attorney-at-Law to describe a Judge’s decision as “madness” and to generally denigrate the Courts or the justice system simply because the Attorney disagrees with a judgment. Actions such as these potentially threaten our entire system of justice. The courts are bulwarks of our Constitution and laws.”

“To this end it is critical that the public respect their judgments and that officials obey and enforce their decisions. Fear of personal attacks, public backlash, or enforcement failures should not color judicial decision making, and persons (most especially senior lawyers and persons in positions of authority in government) have a responsibility to respect courts and judicial decisions. Our courts remain an essential check on all forms of power and on all threats of injustice for the protection of every individual’s rights and freedom.”

Separation of powers is not a threat to democracy; it is the essence of democracy the statement outlined.

The statement also outlined that there is a system of appeal in place which offers recourse to any person who disagrees with an injunction or any judgment.

Indeed, by Sir Gerald’s own public statements it appears that an appeal has been made in the case to which he referred and that the court has agreed to hear that appeal as a matter of priority. Contrary to Sir Gerald’s characterization of “madness”, this all suggests that the system of justice is working procedurally as it should.

The Antigua and Barbuda Bar Council, therefore, takes this opportunity to express our continuing trust in the integrity and independence of the courts and our support for all the honourable and hard-working judges who serve our jurisdiction. We urge all Attorneys at Law in the State of Antigua and Barbuda to be responsible in comments made by them in respect of the Judiciary and to actively encourage respect for the courts by their words and actions at all times.