Senior Counsel Alick Lawrence

Senior Counsel Alick Lawrence has warned legal practitioners that they need to be aware that there is a relationship between the “practitioner and the bench”.

“That relationship is guided by long established rules which regulate matters such as deportment, court room etiquette and indeed every aspect of the practitioner’s interaction with the court,” Lawrence stated.

Lawrence, who just a few months ago was conferred with the title of ‘Senior Counsel’ or ‘Silk’, was addressing the opening of the 2012/2013 law year on Tuesday. He told lawyers that they need to have “a high degree of preparation, honesty and professionalism” as they prepare for court.

He also cautioned his colleagues about unnecessary delays and requests for adjournments at court sessions and reminded them of their duty of not interfering with the administration of justice or misleading the court.

“In that relationship the practitioner’s duty includes: the duty to conduct cases efficiently and expeditiously as the acting chief justice mentioned earlier. This duty addresses issues such as unnecessary delays and requests for adjournment. Secondly there is a duty not to abuse the process of the court. This duty is meant to protect the integrity of the adversarial system; it deals with matters such as raising defenses with no merit and with situations where practitioners know that there is no cause of action, but nevertheless raise or continue it for illegitimate notice,” he said.

According to Lawrence, there is a duty of candor and lawyers must not deceive the court in matters of law. “They are under duty to make full disclosure as to all the law relevant to the case in hand. Insofar as facts are concerned, lawyers must never knowingly give false or misleading information to the court … there is a duty not to interfere with the administration of justice,” Lawrence remarked.

Lawrence stated that in a small society such as Dominica’s where everyone knows everyone personally, it is challenging to separate personal relationships from professional ones. “There is a tendency even in the conduct of professional matters to be informal, personal, familiar and sometimes discourteous. Such laxness tends to affect the conduct of practitioners even at the bar table and puts other practitioners and I dare say even the bench as well, in a very awkward position to put it mildly,” he warned.

He is hopeful that all members of the bar would “critically explore” these relationships with a view to making improvements which would be “obvious to all” at the commencement of next law term.