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Not in high esteem: Daly on faltering public trust in legal practitioners

High esteem does not come easily in or towards our country these days. Public trust is at an all time low, not surprisingly so because of decades of poor governance and the intersection of politics and corrupt business.

Some commentators were dismissive of the idea that last Monday’s no confidence motion against the President and Vice President of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) was an event of any consequence. In addition, the general public has been turned off by legal mouthpieces for one major political party or another being paid excessive fees out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Photo: UNC Senator and attorney Wayne Sturge. (Copyright Newsday)
Photo: UNC Senator and attorney Wayne Sturge.
(Copyright Newsday)

On the morning following the collapse of the no confidence motion, Dale and Tony had the event as one of their topics for interactive discussion. While, of course, call in polls are not always accurate, 89 per cent of the participants said that they no longer held lawyers in high esteem.

Not holding the lawyers in high esteem, and consequently dismissing the Law Association, does unfortunately have an impact on the wider society. That is why I expressed the view that the outcome of the no confidence motion might determine the Association’s viability as an organisation with an influential voice on matters of pending legislation and civil liberties.

The Law Association and its predecessor, the Bar Association, have a long history of coming to the forefront when partisan politics or public administration go dangerously out of line.

Sadly, there have been times when the Law Association has gone through periods of low vigilance on behalf of the public. And during those periods, there has not necessarily been a sympathetic relationship between the Law Association’s Council and the party in Government. Some Councils are more energetic and public spirited than others.

Photo: Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago vice-president Gerry Brooks. (Copyright NGC)
Photo: Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago vice-president Gerry Brooks.
(Copyright NGC)

In a society in which so few people will or can take the risk of public commentary, it is important that the Law Association remains credibly able to do so. It cannot, as a practical matter, survey all its members on every occasion before commenting on something in the public domain. When a Council is selected it must enjoy the confidence of the members that it will perform its public commentary role and without fear or favour.

Failure to canvass its members before opening its mouth cannot reasonably be the basis of a no confidence motion. If a majority are dissatisfied with the Council’s expressions of opinion during the course of a year they can vote them out quite easily because elections for the Council of the Law Association are held annually.

The above reasons are the main ones why I had intended to speak against the motion, but it collapsed before it could be debated because many of those who sought to present the no confidence motion abjectly withdrew or hid in silence when the time came to man up.

Nevertheless, whatever positions the Council takes on contemporary affairs it must be taken openly. It ought not to express its views to politicians under confidential cover. The members have a right to know what is being represented on their behalf and there must be an appropriate communications strategy.

Photo: Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) president Reginald Armour SC talks at the Transparency Institute anti-corruption conference on 8 March 2016. (Copyright Shaun Rambaran/forge.co.tt)
Photo: Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) president Reginald Armour SC talks at the Transparency Institute anti-corruption conference on 8 March 2016.
(Copyright Shaun Rambaran/forge.co.tt)

We heard again in the course of this week that our country might also be a subject of low and declining esteem abroad. This time the commentator was our high profile former national goalkeeper and now prominent ESPN analyst, Shaka Hislop.

As reported in Wired868, Shaka departed from his topic at a recent symposium and spoke from the heart “fuelled by the demonstration of talent from the entertainment portion of the symposium which included singers, free speech artists and dancers whose performances were about encouragement and spreading positive energy among their peers.”

“Living in the States,” said Shaka, “where I am forced to follow the media online, I think the view that the Trinidad media exudes internationally does not reflect the optimism and talent that the country holds.”

He continued: “I can now go back to the States knowing that Trinidad is in a far better place than the media continues to portray. It always takes my breath away to see the wealth of talent and the quality of individuals that Trinidad and Tobago continues to produce. Never mind the headlines; this country is in a very good place. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

Photo: Former World Cup 2006 standout Shaka Hislop now works as an analyst for global sport channel, ESPN.
Photo: Former World Cup 2006 standout Shaka Hislop now works as an analyst for global sport channel, ESPN.

It is delightful that someone of a different generation has commented so graphically on the dichotomy between the bad Trinbago and the creative Trinbago.

Unfortunately the bad Trinbago is not a figment of the media’s imagination. It is real and the media cannot hide it. The bad is a product of the enduring intersection of politics and corrupt business mentioned in my opening paragraph.

Taxpayers’ money, raked in by dirty business from lax governance, would be better spent in investment in the creative arts as repeatedly urged in these columns and reiterated by Shaka.

AboutMartin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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26 comments

  1. always informative articles by Mr Daly, on point as usual. Erosion of public trust in legal practitioners has now been exacerbated by the Opposition stooges. Once a highly regarded profession, it has been further tainted by corruption, greed and unethical behaviour by a few (really or the growing majority). Is this the exemplars for the young? Young people the choice is in your hands. Choose wisely there are brilliant lawyers in front of you. The Media in T&T appear to highlight the not so bright ones. What’s their agenda ?Ever wonder why.?

  2. It still kinda iffy… cause there must be famous known males who are also above reproach.. guess Daly wondered why Caesar’s wife came to his mind and had to ask…. just picong really…

  3. The Law Association is seen by many lawyers as a waste of time. They are known mainly for an end of term Wine and Cheese event and a Christmas Dinner. The seniorland connected lawyers are allowed carte blanche in their activities. I have heard of allegations against several senior lawyers, but for reasons best known to themselves the self same LA has done nothing. The LA is seen as a clique of self admiring clerisy. No one is exempt I know of objectionable conduct by Martin Daly durig a Commision of Inquiry but not a dog bark.

    • Death by innuendo. You didn’t actually give us any examples of misbehaviour by “senior attorneys” at all or Daly.
      But careful when you do in case you need court clothes. 😉

    • I can say that everything you’ve said is true EXCEPT that Daly has been guilty of anything resembling objectionable conduct. That’s unfortunate, because he’s actually the last man standing in the call to impose standards on the profession. If you’re referring to the “Caesars wife” cross examination of Assam, the transcript shows that he was pursuing Assams reference- hardly “objectionable.”

    • Lasana Liburd I remember vaguely the ‘misbehaviour’ by Daly. Was it the COE into CLICO when he acted for Duprey? Not sure if I got it correct.

    • Representing Duprey or any other controversial client is not ‘misbehaviour’. I don’t know of any instance at all. I’d think Justin would be in an excellent position to say.
      I remember seeing him in action at the inquiry and he was very aggressive. I have no problem with that whatsoever.
      My own style rubs some people the wrong way too. 🙂

    • Daly represented Monteil. And it’s his job to be aggressive” on his clients behalf. Also bear in mind that lawyers have an obligation to represent clients despite public or personal sentiments. Taking all that into account- Daly was merely doing his job, which he has a wide reputation for doing in a top class manner.

    • If every suspect deserves the right to legal representation, then it would be unfair to castigate the attorneys who represent them. Neither is doing anything wrong in such a professional relationship.

    • That’s correct- there are old and precise rules to ensure that justice is done- for eg, a lawyer can’t misrepresent, should withdraw representation in circumstances where he doesn’t have faith in the justice of his clients case etc. Those rules, IF complied with, safeguard the public. Sadly, they’re breached more than abided by, without any sanction- which takes us back I think to the original point.

    • First Daly was not accused of any ethical lapses generally, nor during the course of the CoE of Clico. Daly accused Assam of maligning his client Monteil’s integrity based on second hand information. He also threatened to pull dirt on Assam.Then Daly asked Assam if he was bisexual. Sir Anthony Coleman,the Commissioner, then diplomatically asked Daly if he had any other questions that are relevant.This was considered an intervention by a contempraneous Express Newspaper report, Daly then acknowledged to the CoE that there were harsh exchanges but it was curiously not to cast aspersions.I found it objectionable and the Commisioner in my view was of the same mind. I define objectionable according to common usage as unpleasant or offensive. Read the relevant Express. In the same way I have a very high regard for Daly one of our wise men indeed.http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Witness__Daly_in_war_of_words-137332593.html

    • Christopher, Assam compared himself to Caesar’s wife before Daly asked if he was bisexual.
      The way you said it one would think he threatened dirt and then immediately asked if he was bisexual.
      See what a difference context makes?

    • I am sure that the comparison with Caesar wife was for the aphorism that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” and not for her feminine qualities.Mic Drop!!

    • And Lisan Liburd you are factually wrong see this extract..Daly accused Assam of maligning Monteil’s integrity with second-hand information gathered.

      DALY: Yes, it is always tell, tell, tell. Everybody here is slandered on the basis of tell, tell, tell.

      ASSAM: And you are no different.

      DALY: Thank you very much. I was wondering if I should pull the dirt on you but I won’t.

      ASSAM: It is all right, I have no cocoa in the sun, so you could pull any dirt you wish. I am Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, without reproach.
      See the order.. Your therry is falsified both by the facts and by alleged trigger for the charge of bisexuality!!

    • Maybe I misunderstood your original point. I thought you had said Dalys conduct was “objectionable” in the context of requiring censure. If you meant unpleasant or offensive then you’re entitled to your view, it’s an understandable one, but I disagree-it is common at Public Inquiries to see witnesses, especially political ones, posturing in the box. The only way to counteract that is to highlight their demeanor as exactly that, posturing and insincere. There’s a legal quality in a witnesses demeanor which the tribunal can take into account. Still, I can understand your viewpoint. But we agree on the central point-Dalys conduct certainly did not justify any LA or other formal intervention.

    • Thank you for your response as you certainly are under no obligation to respond so graciously or indeed at all. I will not press home any advantage unnecessarily.

    • You can pick back up your mic Christopher. You’re not as far ahead as you think.
      You can say that you’re as unbeatable as Serena. I can tell you she looks far better in a skirt I am sure.
      See what just happened there? You referenced Serena to make one point and I used it to do something different.
      I actually can see the point Assam was trying to make. It was pretty obvious.
      But your assumptions about Daly’s response is speculation. And if that is Daly’s worst deed as an attorney, then I feel we are in good hands with him.

  4. it is time for a rate sheet for lawyers, and refund policy

  5. Wasn’t the LA doing a review of the exorbitant fees charged by a certain group of lawyers? Given that there are recommended fee schedules, why is this still outstanding? The LA and the DPP really have to get their act together!

  6. I think one way of restoring public trust in the law body would be to get rid of the bad apples after an investigation of course . We always ask for the publics assistance in sharing information on wrongdoers in our area , so why the hell those honest people in the various associations don’t do the same ?