Wed | May 22, 2019

Gordon Robinson | ‘Family law’? An oxymoron!

Published:Tuesday | November 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Upon my release from purgatory (aka law school), I vowed never to practise family law.

Why? I dunno. It could be partly because my parents suffered through a hostile divorce; or Gene Autry warned me that family-law practice mainly comprised listening to old men whining about prostate problems, or because of an unfortunate law-school experience.

As the course director commenced the first family-law class, my friend and study companion turned ashen beside me. After class, he explained: "That man came to court as resident magistrate when I was the assistant clerk. He was the most conceited person I'd ever met. Still, I kept my head down, my mouth shut, and did my work."

He continued: "One day, five minutes to court, my phone rang. I answered. It was HIM: 'Judge here!' Sigh. Gordon, I don't know what happened. I snapped. I replied, 'Judge? Judge? Oh, you mean the magistrate!' Trust me. I'm going to fail family law."

So it came to pass. Or fail. We did assignments 'together'. I passed with flying colours. He regularly earned grades that would've disqualified him from entering Calabar's fifth form. He was sentenced to a supplemental 'exam' assignment with which I 'helped'. Finally, he was pardoned.

My discomfort is also grounded in a spiritual belief that judges shouldn't be involved in families except their own. During the 1990s, at the insistence of the late, great Priya Levers, whose practice included family-law matters, I reluctantly acted as counsel in some. Eating that particular pudding proved it. Simply put, 'family law' is an oxymoron.

BTW, let me go on record again as deploring Caymanian authorities unjustifiably engineering an ignominious end to Priya's illustrious career. I thoroughly examined the allegations against her and considered them spurious. The Privy Council came to a similar opinion, but was reluctant to interfere with local authorities.


Judicial demise


Priya, Sri Lankan by birth but Jamaican in every other respect, was temperamentally incapable of keeping quiet whenever she believed she saw lowered standards. Surrendering to that impulse in a country not overly fond of anything foreign hastened her judicial demise.

My self-imposed residence in Coventry (work it out; it's comic) is my quarantine for one more patient infected with her contagious proclivity. We all have quirks. Some vices are dry (like mine); some wet (like Hurricane Florence). Public servants, including judges, should be assessed on professional records and personal integrity. Unless it's abusive or criminal, ignore their foibles.

Back to family! Too many unnecessary battles are fought by absent family members against those closest to ageing, deteriorating and often asset-rich relatives. Many distant relatives haven't lifted a finger to care for ailing family members but swoop in, often via court, as soon as they see assets being depleted as the cost of loved one's healthcare increases.

These suddenly concerned relatives often rely on complaints from the aged and infirm against immediate caregivers without considering that hostility to those closest to you is one consequence of dementia. The enmity is illusory.

I'm still here, but yet I'm gone

I don't play guitar or sing my songs

It never defined who I am

the man that loves you 'til the end.

You're the last person I will love.

You're the last face I will recall.

And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you ...

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me is a high-class documentary examining the legendary Canadian country music singer's battle with Alzheimer's during his final tour. His I'm Not Gonna Miss You, written for the film by Glen and Raymond Julian (lyrics added by Ezra Vickrey), is a haunting lament for those enduring this awful disease.

So, absent family members: Please leave the care of aged relatives to those closest to the daily struggle. Don't bring courts into family. It's unfair to courts to ask them to intervene and choose one set of relatives over another.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to