Tony Deyal, Contributor
There is a joke appropriately called 'The Letter Of The Law' that tells the tale of a dying man who gathered his lawyer, doctor and clergyman at his bedside and gave each of them an envelope containing $25,000 in cash.
The man made them promise that, after his death, they would place the three envelopes in his coffin so he would have enough money to enjoy the next life. The man died a week later and, as asked, each of the three men put an envelope in the coffin.
But when they met a few months later, the priest confessed that he had sent $15,000 to a mission in South America. The doctor then admitted he had given some of the cash to a medical charity.
The lawyer was furious. "I'm the only one who kept his promise!" he exclaimed in righteous indignation. "And I want to stress to both of you that the envelope I put in the coffin contained my personal cheque for the full $25,000."
The real 'letter of the law', however, is supposed to be serious business, and the phrase refers to "the strict and exact force of the language used in a statute, as distinguished from the spirit, general purpose, and policy of the statute".
These days, though, especially in Trinidad, letters of the law have been multiplying and dividing in geometric progression, and although there are many pluses and minuses in the process, most of them do not really add up.
In one case, Jack Warner sent pre-action protocol letters to the Confederation of North Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and former Barbados chief justice, Sir David Simmons, over the contents of a report that had accused Warner of using deceptive methods to secure funds from CONCACAF and FIFA, as well as induce FIFA to transfer funds earmarked for development purposes to bank accounts he controlled.
Pre-action protocol letter
Clearly, a pre-action protocol letter is a letter of the law, but sometimes it is more like a French letter which is intended to contain an issue, gag any arguments - oral or otherwise - or cause considerable friction without necessarily leading to a specific climax. It is not a writ or injunction. It is essentially a threat to sue, which the other party can treat seriously and respond, or with contempt and ignore.
The process for this particular letter of the law is that a client instructs a lawyer to send a letter to the other side in the hope that it will be treated seriously. If so, there is usually a period of negotiation and even some kind of settlement. If not, the matter goes to court where it can either end up as a charge or something even greater.
The matter that Jack Warner seems to be pursuing so assiduously and the fact that it involves an extremely high-ranking person, a former chief justice of Barbados no less, and the world governing body for football, FIFA, means that this is at least a 'grand charge'. I know that when Trinis use the term 'grand charge' or say that someone is 'grand-charging', they mean the person is only pretending, and in Mr Warner's case, this accusation has been made in several places, including letters to the editor of the Express and other newspapers. But since the accusation is about thousands upon thousands of dollars, it would really be a 'grands' charge.
The news broke about Mr Warner's letter of the law on August 14, 2013, but so far there has been no news about whether there were responses, or if any is forthcoming or was ever anticipated. We will not speculate about the particular letter or whether letters of the law like the one sent by Mr Warner gave rise to the abbreviation commonly used in text messages - LOL.
Another set of letters of the law has been circulating recently, not only among the protagonists, which include a media house and its investigative journalists, but also in the media, regarding the attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago and his domestic behaviour.
Based on the view that there is always some truth in any story, regardless of how carefully phrased or how circumspectly it is managed, the public opinion agenda is rife with speculation. Without ever dealing directly with what happened or did not happen, the cease-and-desist, gagging orders, accusations of improper conduct, threats of legal action, and warnings about possible criminal behaviour are causing more than a mere Twitter. People are asking, "What's App?"
I get a daily dose of legal shenanigans online from 'Above The Law' and I saw an absolutely brilliant response to a big-time firm that sent a cease-and-desist letter to a person publishing information that was in the public domain.
The man's lawyer ended his reply with: "So we would propose you allow Greg to put his site back up. He is not harming anyone ... . Even without your permission, I will likely advise him to put his site back up. We know that you don't really have much to gain from intimidating our client and you will probably leave him alone, which would be a wise choice ... .
"If you do feel it's necessary to sue our client, we are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and we have lollipops for people who serve process. So if you do file a complaint and send someone over with a summons, please have them wear something with a bit of purple ... ; we all like purple."
Purple clothing might not be protocol, or even pre-action protocol, but it might really be the most appropriate colour for a 'loud' lawsuit.
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that the best threatening letter was sent by some terrorists who took hostage a whole courtroom full of lawyers. They threatened to release one every hour until their demands were met.