INDEPENDENT Senator Sophia Chote has described legislation to allow Commonwealth lawyers to serve in this jurisdiction, as Supreme Court judges, as insulting and unfair to local attorneys.
She made this known while contributing to Senate debate yesterday on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill.
Chote who is a Senior Counsel, said with Council of Legal Education and since 1970, the Caribbean has been producing attorneys and judges who have gone through the system either via the University of the West Indies or if they studied abroad and then did conversion courses at law schools.
“The fact is their legal education was required by this agreement to be streamlined to suit the needs of the people of the Anglophone Caribbean. What we are doing here is we are blowing the door wide open. We are not just opening it slightly.
“We are blowing the door wide open to any member of the bar of a Commonwealth country to not practice in TT you know but to jump ahead of the practitioners in TT and to sit and adjudicate as a judge of the Supreme Court,”
Chote said there were young attorneys who would look forward to becoming a judge of the Supreme Court and the the Court of Appeal but this legislation would mean they would have to compete with people who did not have to go through the same process.
“I think that is grossly unfair.” She said the legislation created an odd situation where someone from the Commonwealth had to follow certain producers to practice at the bar but the legislation says any Commonwealth attorney can sit as a judge in the Supreme Court.
She recalled late Caribbean legal luminary Sir Hugh Wooding had once said that we want lawyers on the bench who belong and understand our way of speaking.
She said the High Wooding and Norman Manley law schools because Caribbean education was needed and the lawyers and later judges who would come from these institutions would understand the social and cultural sensitivities that were expected.