Hall of Justice Port of Spain
JUSTICE Vasheist Kokaram has granted a suspension of his judgment until October 4, 2019, to allow Parliament to amend the provision under the Legal Profession Act that he deemed unconstitutional.
The law in question gives Trinidad and Tobago law students a shortcut into the legal profession that is not afforded to CARICOM citizens.
A written decision at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday still prevents students who are qualified under the provision to be admitted to practice law during the next call to the Bar in October.
Kokaram said the Registrar of the Supreme Court should still accept the applications of students but should not process them until the issue is resolved either by the Parliament or the Court of Appeal.
The issue stems from his 124-page judgement delivered on July 25 in a constitutional motion brought by Dianne Jhamilly Hadeed, who is a St Lucian of Grenadian birth.
Hadeed said she was being deprived of an opportunity to practice law in TT “based on a restriction against non-nationals prescribed under 15 (1A) of the Legal Profession Act (LPA).
“By that section, despite her having the required qualifications to be admitted to practise law in this jurisdiction only, a line has been drawn by Parliament between nationals entitled to access this section 15(1A) pathway and ‘other’ non-nationals, in her case, a St. Lucian of Grenadian birth who are not,” the judge said.
Hadeed was seeking an order to strike out in section 15 (1A) of the LPA the words “a national of Trinidad and Tobago” and replace it with “any person” or “A national of a CARICOM Member State”.
Justice Kokaram said, “In my view, it is sufficient to make the declaration that section 15(1A) of the LPA is in beach of the constitutional rights of section 4(b) and section 4(d) of the Constitution and should be repealed.”
But the legislating or reforming section 15 (1A) was a matter for the Parliament, he said.
Justice Kokaram said, “Indeed, having regard to the heated debates on Parliament on this issue, it is hardly a place for this Court to now intervene to legislate the outcome.
“The Court can give suitable guidance and possible solutions but the final say lies in the bosom of the population by their duly elected representatives.”
He said, “I would not therefore accede to Ms. Hadeed’s request for an order striking through the words ‘a national of Trinidad and Tobago’ appearing in section 15(1A) of the Legal Profession Act and replacing it with ‘any person.’”