The Man and the Law
This is the final of a three-part series in which Sir David Simmons spoke exclusively with The Gleaner. See The Sunday Gleaner and yesterday's Gleaner for Part One and Two.
Sir David Anthony Cathcart Simmons has come a long way since he was a student at the London School of Economics and Political Science when he played the trumpet in a band in order to help pay expenses such as rent. Back then, his gigs included student council parties and other functions.
Today, he makes notes with pen in hand as he chairs regional high-level enquiries such as the current Tivoli Commission of Enquiry into the May 2010 massacre that led to the capture of fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
"I still play the trumpet when I get the chance," said Sir David, who has had an illustrious career as an attorney, university lecturer, Queen's Counsel, attorney general, and chief justice.
In his wide-ranging exclusive interview with this newspaper (see the Sunday and Monday Gleaner), this son of a nurse and an educator dispels the widely held notion that he is a workaholic. "I love music. If you play a CD, I can play trumpet along with it, and I love listening to music. I grew up on Louis Armstrong. I love Winton Marsalis, Miles Davis, and all the old exponents of great music, so I do have my diversions," Sir David said.
And he is also reputed to have the best collection of calypso music in Barbados - from 1924 to the present - and makes time to listen to his favourite tracks. The collection includes LPs and CDs, and like a true connoisseur, he also owns a working record player.
And though these days he prefers to enjoy the exploits of others on the track, the young David Simmons won the 100 yards in 10 seconds on January 6, 1960. He also loves cricket.
"I was invited to try out for my country's cricket team but only made 12th man in 1959. But I wrote fast bowler Charlie Griffiths' biography," said Sir David, who still maintains a keen interest in the game. He was at one point owner-trainer of horses but says perhaps he has been branded as a workaholic because when he has something to do, he sees it through to completion. "I give whatever I am doing my best shot, while getting maximum satisfaction from it," he said.
Following his stint at the faculty of law at Cave Hill in Barbados, Sir David focused on building his private practice and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1984, a distinction he achieved in record time. Among his many outstanding students from the early teaching years are Jamaicans Dennis Morrison Q.C. and Derrick McKoy. No stranger to working in Jamaica, in 2010, after retirement, he lectured the course The Law of Contracts at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies from September to December 2010.
Admitting that he loved teaching and prefers law to politics, Sir David disclosed that while he was in politics, he was totally consumed by it, due largely to his passion for seeing things happen, so he pushed people hard, too.
The legal profession has undergone many changes since he received his L.L.B. and L.L.M. degrees in 1963 and 1965, respectively. In recent times, some of the more prominent members of the profession in Jamaica have negatively hit the spotlight for alleged involvement in unethical practices. The Gleaner asked Sir David where he sees practitioners of law in 20 years hence.
"I am very worried," was his immediate response. He posited that the University of the West Indies (UWI), which was designed to advance the spirit of regionalism, was losing that status because the law faculty was suffering from the entry of several other institutions teaching law and giving degrees in the individual Caribbean territories.
"That is a lot of competition, which will affect the UWI law faculty both at the level of student intake and the quality of teachers. The faculty in Barbados has already lost very good teachers who have left for these national universities," Sir David.
Another worrying trend for the legal giant is the number of lawyers being produced every year. "Can the societies and economies of these islands sustain it, this production line of lawyers from Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago? I am not sure, so I am worried," Sir David said.
Supply and demand
He also explained that individual countries could only maintain a finite number of lawyers earning a decent living, therefore, if the supply of lawyers heavily outweighs the demand, there would be problems, and that is where dishonesty will occur.
"There are too many lawyers sharing too little of the legal professional pie, and that is the real problem," Sir David opines. In spite of that, he says the law is a wonderful profession that affords opportunities within and outside of courts and he intends to work until his brain no longer functions at its present level.
Sir David who, at one point practised journalism, has also acted as prime minister of Barbados. He was awarded the Barbados Centennial Honour for public service, law, and politics, as well as Knight of St Andrew, his country's highest honour. He is married to a Jamaican, Madame Justice Marie McCormack, whose stepfather was the late Justice Louis B. Fox. They have two children.