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Bad lawyers banned for Life!

Published:Sunday | June 28, 2015 | 6:00 AMErica Virtue
Haughton Cardenas

Almost 50 of the country's more than 4,000 attorneys-at-law have been banned for life from practising law in Jamaica.

The list of banned lawyers includes some multiple repeat offenders of various infractions unbecoming of the legal profession.

Last updated on April 1, 2015, the website of the General Legal Council (GLC) lists the names of the

attorneys and the date(s) on which disciplinary action was taken and the reason for the action taken.

Disciplinary action is taken after "extensive" investigation and adjudication by the Disciplinary Committee of the GLC of the Jamaican Bar Association, according to the chair of the Disciplinary Committee, Walter Scott.

He said less than five per cent of the lawyers who have been subjected to disciplinary action involves clients money.

"Most of the cases involved professional negligence, failure to communicate with the clients, failing to deal with matters expeditiously, delays, things like that," Scott told The Sunday Gleaner.

"A disbarred attorney is barred for life, and a struck-off attorney is struck off for life. There is no difference in the terminology of disbarred or struck off. The terminology used in the legal profession is struck off.

"Americans like to use disbarred, but it amounts to the same thing. It simply means that the person is no longer entered on the roll and is, therefore, not entitled (to practise)," said Scott.

"To all intents and purposes, that person is a civilian once they have been struck off," he clarified.

Struck off multiple times

He explained that in the cases where lawyers have been struck off multiple times, cases brought against an attorney must be heard even if the person is already barred.

"If someone had multiple offences and you were first struck off on March 30, and the other offences came up for trial after that, we would still make a striking-off order. So you could then be struck off on the

several dates after that initial struck-off dates.

"The first struck off is it, but if subsequent cases warrant a strike-off order, it is really of no effect, because the first one stands," added Scott.

Among the repeat offenders are former talk-show host Antoinette Haughton Cardenas, who had matters before the committee 10 times between December 2007 and December 2012.

She was struck off four times and she also faced fines, and ordered to repay funds. She exercised her right to appeal in at least one instance.

Another repeat offender is Derrick Darby, who faced the committee eight times between 2003 and 2005. He was struck off four times between April 2003 and July 2005. There were orders also for repayment of funds as well as a fine.

Leeland Playfair faced the committee six times and was struck off twice between 1995 and 2012. He was fined twice.

Shaun Reynolds also faced the committee six times, and was first struck off in March 2007.

Former Deputy Police Commissioner Owen Clunie was struck off twice between September 2013 and January 2015.

Scott does not believe that "multiple offenders" have any chance of redemption, and he was careful to point out that many lawyers' names are not on the list of those permitted to practise, because they have stopped practising, and not because of any wrongdoing.

Lawyers who work in the government service are not required to present financial reports or make accounting declarations to the GLC as they are under the purview of public sector monitoring and subject to those rules.