Bar Association, Sir Gerald Watt come under fire for recent public exchange

Anthony Astaphan (Photo source: sakafete.com)

Both the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association and Senior Attorney Sir Gerald Watt, QC are being scrutinised for public remarks that were made recently in relation to the Barbuda airport injunction case.

The criticism is coming from prominent Dominican Senior CounselAnthonyAstaphan, who on the weekend, stated that the matter was blown out of proportion.

Astaphan, addressed Sir Gerald Watts use of the word “madness” to describe a court decision and the subsequent response from the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Council.

Sir Gerald made the remark in late August while noting that High Court Justice Rosalyn Wilkinson had refused to hear lawyers appearing for the Development ControlAuthority (DCA) because an affidavit was notfiled.

Days later, the Bar Association issued a release indicating that Sir Gerald’s comment was unfortunate as well as troubling.

In the release, the association highlighted the Code of Ethics governing lawyers, reminding the senior lawyer that it is the duty of every attorney to maintain a respectful attitude towards the court and to refrain from engaging in undignified criticism.

But Astaphan has since stated that the position of the Bar Association was seriously flawed, as he noted that Sir Gerald is possibly one of the most senior lawyers practising within the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“They should have spoken to him, they could have called him or written him and I really thought that their press release was a ramble and a rant, much to do about nothing.All they had to do, say it was unfortunate that the word ‘madness’ was used,” Astaphan said.

Last week, Sir Gerald publicly acknowledged that perhaps he could have chosen another word. Astaphan weighed in over the weekend, saying that he would have advised against the use of the word “madness”, while at the same time stressing that attorneys do have a right to criticise rulings.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has set a September 11 date to hear the government’s appeal of the Barbuda Airport injunction.

Dr. David Dorsett, one of the government’s lead attorneys on the matter, confirmed to OBSERVER media yesterday, that while the judges will be in St. Lucia, the hearing will be done via video-conferencing with lawyers from both sides.

“We would have hoped for more expedition, but I think the court has done the best in light of the fact that we are in recess,” Dr. Dorsett said. He further explained that the court does not officially start until September 16, so the court has made an exceptional effort to get the matter heard.

On August 2, Justice Wilkinson, granted an interim injunction, halting all construction on the airport in Barbuda immediately.

The ruling was in favour of Barbudans,John Mussington and Jacklyn Frank, who, through their attorney Leslie Thomas QC, filed an application for leave for judicial review of the government’s decision to construct the airport.

The application seeks to address what is being described as a failure by the central government to meet critical requirements under the Physical Planning Act 2003, in the development of the airport, and failure to follow proper planning procedures where the government has started or permitted construction.

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