Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Foote still off lawyers’ roll pending appeal

Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 12:19 AM

The Court of Appeal has refused an application by Don Foote to stay the decision of the General Legal Council (GLC) to have him struck from the roll of attorneys entitled to practise in Jamaica, pending the hearing of the appeal.

Foote, on December 11, 2019, was found guilty of professional misconduct by a disciplinary panel of the GLC arising from claims by a client that he under-reported by $9 million the amount she was awarded by the Supreme Court in a lawsuit she filed against the Government.

The GLC, the body that regulates the legal profession in Jamaica, ordered him to pay a sum of $2.3 million to a woman.

In the ruling handed down on January 22, Court of Appeal judge, Justice Paulette Williams, cited several reasons for her decision, among them the GLC’s role in preserving the dignity of the profession.

“As the guardian of the legal profession, the respondent (GLC) has a duty to protect the public from members of the profession who have been found to commit unprofessional conduct. Even more significantly, I have to consider the complainant, who had been kept from what can be described as the fruits of a judgment obtained in her favour for seven years. I am compelled to conclude that the course most likely to cause the least irremediable harm is to refuse the stay as requested,” she said in an 18-page judgment.

Williams added: “However, being mindful of the harm that will flow from this conclusion, I recommend that there be an expedited hearing of this appeal.”

Foote was granted a temporary stay of the GLC’s decision last December after he filed an appeal relying on 12 grounds.

He had argued that the GLC “acted with irregularity in the conduct of the proceedings by permitting a third party to be present throughout the hearings and to coach the complainant in the giving of her evidence”.

Foote claimed, too, that the disciplinary panel made adverse findings of fact before it started hearing evidence and charged that both issues deprived him of his constitutional and common-law right to a fair hearing.