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Jun 19, 2014

Elrington’s move to remove mandatory membership in the Bar Association

Wilfred Elrington

On Wednesday, Attorney-General Wilfred Elrington was asked his opinion on the reappointment of Justice Samuel Awich. He expounded at length, but he also took the opportunity to vent on the Bar Association of Belize. We showed you some of it on Wednesday’s newscast, but there’s more. Elrington also revisited a move he made last year to remove mandatory membership in the Bar Association. It got stalled between the Solicitor-General’s Office and the Bar Association, but it seems that Elrington wouldn’t mind kick-starting the process again.

 

Wilfred Elrington, Attorney-General

“I had some years ago initiated action to change the law in relation to membership of the Bar Association, because I have not attended meetings for fifteen or twenty years. I got so disgusted with the bar so many years ago that I just stopped going. I found personally that the attorneys who are members of the Bar don’t want to think for themselves. It’s almost a sheep or herd mentality. Everybody just follows what a particular individual in the Bar Association says or does. I find that unacceptable particularly for people who have been educated and who are supposed to be independent thinkers so I stopped. But I thought that was not enough because so long as I am practicing I have to pay dues to the Bar Association but the Bar Association gives nothing back to me. They have annual meetings where they serve whiskey and rum and beer and the like, none of which I drink. But apart from that they haven’t been doing anything to merit the fees that I pay. So for that reason I’m saying they don’t help the public, they don’t help individual attorneys so I don’t want to be a part of it. So it’s for that reason that I initiated legal action to change the situation. But what I was doing was neither novel nor innovative nor really innovative. It’s the same thing that obtains in places like Jamaica. In Jamaica attorneys are free to belong to the Jamaican Bar Association. Here in Belize you have to belong to it. I don’t think that’s right. And in Jamaica they have a model system where they have an exemplary disciplinary structure and also an exemplary structure which provides for continuing education of lawyers to serve the public. So that they monitor their lawyers, they discipline them and they make sure that the public gets good service from lawyers. None of that happens in Belize. And it needs to happen.”

 

Elrington says that the resolution of the Bar against Justice Samuel Awich is a low blow because as a judge he cannot respond.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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