Manatt shuns witness box
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Manatt, Phelps & Phillips saga took yet another mystifying turn yesterday as attorneys grappled with just how to drag the United States law firm into the witness box of the commission of enquiry currently under way to, in part, determine who hired it.
Dizzying interchanges were played out by the attorneys, wrestling aggressively over who or which organisation/administration was Manatt's client.
Manatt was engaged in 2009 to assist Jamaica out of its diplomatic conundrum with the United States after the Government refused to give its stamp of approval to the request to extradite then Tivoli Gardens don, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
The enquiry was reminded that Manatt maintains that the Government is its client.
Harold Brady, the attorney, enlisted in 2009 by either the Jamaica Labour Party or the Bruce Golding administration to engage the services of Manatt, claims in a lawsuit that he was Manatt's client.
The JLP claims that it is Manatt's client.
K.D. Knight, the attorney representing the People's National Party, sparked a complex exchange when he asked whether the commission had succeeded in luring Manatt's representative to Jamaica.
Verbal, written response
Commission Chairman Emil George said he had received word, both verbally and in writing, from Manatt after making a request of the law firm to give a statement.
George said the commission had written to Manatt, which baulked at the prospect of giving evidence, claiming it was bound by attorney-client privilege.
He said he followed up with a discussion with a representative of Manatt on Monday who insisted that the law firm was stonewalled.
But Knight quickly countered that there was a way around the hurdle.
He suggested that the Government pen correspondence to Manatt to release the law firm from its predicament.
"All the Government has to do is say it cannot claim privilege, which would free Manatt. The JLP could do the same," argued Knight.
Hugh Small, attorney representing Prime Minister Bruce Golding, rebutted that Brady could not be ruled out, as the attorney had claimed in his lawsuit that he was Manatt's client.
He also said he was not aware of Manatt asking the Government for a waiver to appear before the commission.
"We would welcome Manatt to the enquiry to ask them about their audacity of entering a contract, and on which basis were they so authorised."
Small was cut off in mid-sentence by Knight, who accused him of erecting obstacles for each proposed solution presented.
Concerned about liability
Patrick Atkinson, the attorney representing former Minister of National Security Dr Peter Phillips, argued that Manatt was concerned about liability in the United States and its bar association.
"All they are asking for is a waiver from the Government," he contended.
But Small argued that there was no contractual obligation between the Government and Manatt.
Lloyd Barnett, the attorney representing Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne, referred to a letter of engagement that Brady, and none other, was Manatt's client.
However, Knight argued that he had seen nothing to suggest that Brady was Manatt's client.
George said he had already placed all of the possibilities before the Manatt representative.
But Knight suggested that there was a difference between the JLP and the Government writing to the law firm, and the chairman of the commission seeking Manatt's presence.