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Sunday 15 December 2019
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Section of Legal Profession Act unconstitutional

Justice Vasheist Kokaram.
Justice Vasheist Kokaram.

A HIGH COURT judge has deemed section 15 (1A) of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) to be unconstitutional as it discriminates against non-nationals who want to practise law in TT.

Justice Vasheist Kokaram, in a 125-page decision, yesterday held that the law was discriminatory in nature and placed an additional burden on a non-national to seek admission to the Hugh Wooding Law School, write an entrance examination, or wait additional years to be called to the bar in England and then seek to get their certificate of fitness before being admitted to the local Bar.

However, Kokaram stopped short of changing the law. This, he said, was for Parliament to do.

Kokaran was asked to declare the section of the LPA unconstitutional and strike it down by Dianne Jhamilly Hadeed, a St Lucian who was born in Grenada, and who had the required qualifications to be admitted to practise law in TT.

He was also asked to remove the words “a national of TT” and replace it with “any person.” Hadeed argued that the section was carved out exclusively for the benefit of TT nationals, without the requirement of obtaining a legal education certificate if they underwent their six-month in-service training under a practicing attorney.

She argued that the section was in breach of TT’s regional commitment and in breach of the law as it affords preferential treatment to its own nationals.

While he admitted that there was absolutely nothing wrong to give nationals the opportunity to advance themselves and their careers by provide alternative routes, but he added it should not be at the expense of others.

“What difference does it make if you are St Lucian or Trinidadian? Why create additional burdens for one class and remove barriers for another?” the judge questioned.

He also offered several remedies for amending the law. The effect of the judge’s ruling is that from today no one, including TT nationals, can apply under section 15(1) of the LPA to be admitted to practise in TT, particularly those who did not attend the HWLC and are not in possession of an LEC, until the law is amended by Parliament or the ruling is successfully appealed.

Hadeed was represented by Christophe Rodriquez, Raisa Caesar, Sparkle Kirk and David Francis, while Fyard Hosein,SC, represented the Attorney General; Deborah Peake,SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon and Tamara Toolsie represented the Law Association and Ian Benjamin, Pierre Rudder and Michelle Benjamin represented the Registrar of the Supreme Court.

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