Senior attorney-at-law Sir Gerald Watt, QC has severely chastised the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Council, describing it as a “useless lot”.
“I consider them a useless lot. And , you know why I say that, I say that because the president, who I know well, I have nothing against him but if you want to attack me remember I am not taking it.
“Everybody knows that the Bar Association is a moribund organisation. They are always sleeping and how many times have you heard them come to the assistance of the general public who are having a difficulty with the way the system is working,” Sir Gerald queried rhetorically.
His remarks, made on a local radio station yesterday, was in response to a statement issued by the association on Tuesday. In the statement, the Bar Council, criticised the veteran
attorney for his recent condemnation of a High Court ruling.
The judgment, to which they refer, came from Justice Rosalyn E. Wilkinson and was an interimin junction halting the construction of an international airport in Barbuda pending the hearing of the substantive challenge to the project..
Over a week ago, Sir Gerald objected to the judge’s decision, calling it “madness”, noting that the judge halted the project without considering certain factors.
However, according to the association the comment in particular was unfortunate as well as troubling.
In a release, the Bar Association highlighted the Code of Ethics governing lawyers, reminding that it is the duty of every attorney to maintain a respectful attitude towards the court and to refrain from engaging in undignified criticism,
which is degrading to the Court.
The association also stated that lawyers are not prohibited from disagreeing with a court decision and should do so when legitimate differences on how to interpret or apply law arise.
The release stressed that the system of justice benefits when such differences are fully ventilated or even debated not only before the Courts but also in the public arena. It, however, noted that attorneys have a further duty to ensure that in challenging a Court’s judgment they do not also denigrate the Judge or the Court itself.
But Sir Gerald hit back yesterday, asking, “where was the Bar Association” when noted medical practitioner Jose Humphreys was fighting a very long battle for the Antigua and Barbuda Medical Council to renew his medical licence.
He also stated that the association failed to act when public officials openly criticised the court several times in the past.
“It looks like they have strength for me, but I ain’t no soft pumpkin,” the senior lawyer said.
Then he alleged that “politics” is part of the reason the Bar Council has targeted him, but he declined to elaborate on that or to state the other reason(s).
Meanwhile, he added that when he used the word “madness” in his discourse, he did not mean “that the court is mad … it is the decision that I described as being mad”.
The Queen’s Counsel said it the Association examines the context of the conversation, it cannot conclude “I meant that the judge or court is mad” and he added “I am not taking no lecture from the bar association … they do nothing for the poor person … they are a waste of time,” he surmised.
The noted attorney said he will be responding in writing to the Bar Association.
And, he said “they are not going to like it”.
He maintained that he reserves the right to criticise any ruling of a court as long as he has reasoning and is not disrespectful. Sir Gerald was at pains to establish he has been practising law for over 50 years and has often defended the courts “when the Bar Association was silent.”
He said he doesn’t need “any just come” “junior lawyers” attacking him, as opposed to directly stating the issue.