Head of regional law student’s association takes CARICOM to court

Antigua’s representative to the Association of Caribbean Students for Equal Access to the Legal Profession (ACSEAL), is in full support of a legal challenge that was mounted by the president of the association who is taking CARICOM to court over unfair admission practices.

Jason Jones, president and co-founder of ACSEAL, recently initiated the legal proceedings in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the Council for Legal Education (CLE), the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), for the infringement of his rights, as a national of Trinidad and Tobago, to access vocational training in the region in order to become an Attorney-at-Law, eligible to practice within CARICOM member states.

J’moul A. Francis, the local representative for the association, said Jones opted for the legal route after other efforts failed. Outside of the legal challenge filed by the president, the group on a whole has sought the attention of CARICOM heads as they lobby for improved access to legal education in the region.

“We felt that the diplomatic route was time-wasting and we were not [being taken] seriously. We felt taking the next step, which is taking the bodies that are responsible for free movement across the region, to the CCJ to get some reprieve [on] the matter,” Francis said.

According to the group, by agreement made among CARICOM Member States, pursuant to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) and further, the Treaty establishing the Council for Legal Education, any CARICOM national can become an Attorney-at-Law eligible to practice in any Member State, after having first obtained a University of the West Indies (UWI) or an equivalent undergraduate law degree and then completed vocational training at one of the regional law schools.

However, since 1996, holders of non-UWI law degrees have consistently been denied equal access to the regional law schools on the basis of what it calls “an entrance examination fraught with discriminatory practices” that seemingly contradict CARICOM’s integration principles such as the acceptance of evidence of qualifications and movement of skilled community nationals.

ACSEAL says all holders of UWI law degrees are granted automatic exclusive entry to the regional law schools, regardless of their degree classification.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)