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LATT refunds UNC’s UK lawyer in election petition case

FOREIGN lawyers wanting to practise in the local courts are only required to pay an annual subscription fee to the Law Association (LATT) and an annual contribution to its compensation fund.

This was the finding of a High Court judge in a statutory interpretation claim filed by voter Shevanand Gopeesingh, in the 2015 election petition challenging the results in the constituencies of Tunapuna, St Joseph, Toco/Sangre Grande, San Fernando East, Moruga/Tableland and La Horquetta/Talparo.

Gopeesingh’s petition was against the San Fernando East results. The election petitions were dismissed by the Court of Appeal in October 2016.

However, Gopeesingh filed the interpretation summons after his lead counsel, British Queen’s Counsel Timothy Straker, was made to pay separate fees for the six petitions.

In all, Straker was charged $90,000 and $7,200 by the LATT for the six petitions.

Justice James Aboud presided over Gopeesingh’s interpretation claim.

In order to practise in the local courts, Commonwealth lawyers must receive a practising certificate from the registrar after they are deemed eligible for admission by the minister. They also have to get a certificate of fitness, pay the fees stipulated by the LATT, and make the payment to the compensation fund, and their petition to be admitted to the bar must have been granted by a judge, in accordance with provisions of the Legal Profession Act.

When the local attorneys on the election petitions applied to the LATT, it was decided that Straker would be charged six times for one practising certificate to represent the six petitioners in the six separately filed civil proceedings, with each petition treated as a separate case.

The cost of an annual practising certificate for silk is $15,000 and the contribution to the compensation fund is $1,200.

The separate payments were made for Straker to represent the six petitioners.

During the proceedings before Aboud, the LATT did not contest Gopeesingh’s challenge and indicated that it had decided to return the excess payments owed to Straker.

The LATT conceded an annual subscription and contribution was for 12 months and no section of the act provided for more than one annual subscription or contribution.

Straker was refunded the $75,000 by the LATT, but the judge noted that the Attorney General has not yet paid the reimbursement of $6,000 in relation to the contributions to the compensation fund.

Gopeesingh was represented by a team of lawyers led by Anand Ramlogan, SC. Michael Quamina appeared for the AG and Rishi Dass for the LATT.

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