THE LEGAL PROFESSION ACT NO. 31 of 2001 – THE APPEALS COMMISSION
As with all tribunals, some process of appeal had to be established in order to allow persons aggrieved by decisions of the Disciplinary Committee an opportunity to have their decisions reviewed, and possibly changed.
To that end, the Legal Profession Act No. 31 of 2001 established the Appeals (Professional Misconduct) Commission in order to hear appeals arising from decisions which the Disciplinary Committee took with respect to particular attorneys and or complaints.
Members of the Appeals Commission were recently appointed by the Attorney General per the terms of the Act, and the Commission will be expected to be in a position to hear its first appeal within a very short period.
The following questions and answers on the Commission are provided for public information:
1. WHAT IS THE APPEALS COMMISSION?
The Appeals (Professional Misconduct) Commission is the body established under the Legal Profession Act No. 31 of 2001 to hear appeals of decisions by the Disciplinary Committee. This means that an attorney-at-law who is found to have been guilty of misconduct by the Disciplinary Committee can bring his or her case before the Appeals Commission and have the Committee’s decision reviewed, and possibly changed.
Similarly, a person who complained about an attorney-at-law and who was unsatisfied with the decision of the Committee can also appeal to the Commission.
2. HOW MANY PEOPLE SIT ON THE COMMISSION?
Five persons sit on the Commission, which is comprised of:
(i) one person nominated by the Attorney General,
(ii) one person nominated by the Bar Association,
(iii) two persons who are not attorneys-at-law and who will represent the public interest and be of good standing in the community, and nominated by the Governor General; and
(iv) one person who will be the Chairperson nominated by the Chief Justice and who will be an attorney-at-law of at least fifteen (15) years standing.
3. WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION?
The members of the Appeal Commission are; (in no particular order)
Mr. Winston Cenac Q.C. (Chairperson)
Mr. Cletus Springer
Mrs. Jacinta Lee
Mr. Errol Walker; and
Mr. John Quinlan.
4. WHAT IS THE COMMISSION EMPOWERED TO DO?
When the Commission hears an appeal from the Disciplinary Commission, it can affirm the decision (i.e. agree with the decision of the Disciplinary Committee), or set the decision aside.
It can also substitute its own decision or penalty so long as the Committee itself could have imposed it, or it can send the matter back to the Committee to rehear it altogether.
5. WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE FOR MAKING AN APPEAL?
Once the Disciplinary Committee has issued its decision, to both parties concerned, it will be possible for either party to appeal to the Commission.
The Act provides that the Appeals Commission shall regulate its own procedure. This means that it will be able to determine how appeals may be made, in what time they will be heard and what form the appeal will take.
However, this procedure is yet to be finalised pending meetings of the members of the Commission.
6. WHAT HAPPENS IF SOME OF THE MEMBERS ARE NOT PRESENT AT AN APPEAL?
So long as the Chairperson and two (2) other persons are present at an appeal, it will be possible to have the matter heard.
7. WHAT OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES DOES THE COMMISSION HAVE TO UNDERTAKE?
One of the things that the Commission may be called upon to do will be to hear initial complaints/applications against attorneys-at-law where the Disciplinary Committee fails to do something which it is required to do by law.
For example, if a person makes a complaint against an attorney, and the Disciplinary Committee acknowledges the application by giving the parties notice within seven (7) days of receiving the application, but does not go on to hear the application within twenty-eight (28) days, that person can simply appeal to the Commission to hear the matter.
In short, the Commission will also act as a fail-safe where the Disciplinary Committee fails to do its work.
8. IS THERE AN APPEAL FROM DECISIONS OF THE COMMISSION?
Yes. A person who is unsatisfied with a decision of the Commission can appeal to the Court of Appeal.
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S CHAMBERS