Attorney General promotes legislation to create new legal associations

Attorney General Wilfred Elrington has instructed Solicitor General Cheryl Krusen to write Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, Justices of the Supreme Court and President of the Bar Association of Belize Eamon Courtenay requesting their comments on a bill to amend the Legal Profession Act to “remove the requirement of compulsory membership by attorneys-at-law to the Bar Association of Belize.” The move was first reported by the Belize Times in its Friday issue, in which the Opposition organ accuses the Government of, among other things, “(changing) the function and objects of the Association without any consultation from the attorney membership” and “dilute the power of the Bar Association,” and also claims that the Government owes a debt of $17,000 which it refuses to pay. Today, Elrington had no kind words for the Association, which he says he stopped attending meetings of since the early 1980’s. He claims that the organization’s leadership has done little to educate new attorneys or uphold the standards of the practice of law in Belize:

Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General:
vlcsnap-2013-03-12-19h56m17s114The leadership of the association is limited to a few families.  You check it over the years.  Although now we have over a hundred attorneys, it’s the same few families, like musical chairs, are elected as president. You can’t change that it seems.  The Treasurer Edwin Flowers, who’s my excellent friend, I like him, he’s an honest person, Edwin is the Treasurer for life. I mean, what kind of association do you have where nobody wants to take up responsibility?  There is no other attorney who has the capacity to be Treasurer?  But that is symptomatic of the nature of the organization.  I don’t have the authority to change that on my own.  But I do have a constitutional right not to belong to such an organization.

Elrington cites as precedent the de-regulation of the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) in the South by court order.

Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General:
It is nothing unusual.  It is a proper thing to do.  It is the right thing to do.  The only;t thing that is strange is that it has taken us so long. The farmers in the Citrus Growers Association are way ahead of us, where that should not have been the case.  The lawyers should have been ahead of the Citrus Growers in that regard.

According to the Attorney General the proposed bill, on which the parties are to comment by March 15, has the support of Prime Minister Dean Barrow who is a senior attorney and expressed dissatisfaction with the Bar in 2010 during the fight over the Eighth Amendment:

Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General:
I can’t speak for the Prime Minister, but I can tell you that the Prime Minister is an agreement with the proposal that we amend the law, so that it is consistant with our constitution. He is fully in support of the proposal, and he has to be as the Head of State and a very senior and accomplished attorney hinself. He will want to see that we do things constitutionally.  He will not want to condone legislation that is not constitutional.

But the A.G. insists there is no plot to destroy the Association:

Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General:
We’re not seeking to break it up, you know. We’re seeking it to make it better, and to make it conform to our constitution.  That’s all we are doing.  We’re not seeking to abolish it

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