The judge sitting in the civil suit brought against his boss, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, stepped aside this morning, even as signs of secrecy seemed to emerge in connection with the case.
Justice Randall Worrell, who presided over the case this morning, recused himself at the behest of the claimant Vernon Smith, QC, the veteran lawyer who is suing the Chief Justice, accusing him of disbarring him without due process.
Justice Worrell acceded to Smith’s request because, according to Smith, the judge’s wife had appeared as Junior Counsel with Barry Gale, QC at the hearing in which Sir Marston had disbarred the claimant on April 17, 2015.
In another twist to the suit against the Chief Justice, Smith, his four-member team of lawyers and one of the island’s most accomplished senior attorneys, Sir Henry Forde, QC said they were baffled by the existence of an “internal list” of cases in the Supreme Court of Barbados.
It is this list which has drawn the ire of the claimant and his team, Queen’s Counsel Edmund King and Hal Gollop, Michael Springer and Fawn Phillips. They have questioned why their case against Sir Marston was on it but did not appear on the public list, where they contend all court matters must be published.
“I attended the court of Mr Justice Worrell this morning and I told him that my counsel Mr Edmund King, QC had not seen it on the court list, but was told by the Registrar that it was set down. His clerk stated that it was not the publicly published list, but on the internal list. I have never been made aware that two court lists were published,” Smith told Barbados TODAY.
Asked about an internal list for cases, Sir Henry told this newspaper he never heard of such, but said he assumed it might be a list that the judges kept.
Also of note today was the fact that the marshal had to be encouraged to publicly announce the names of the parties to the case. After a brief sitting the matter was adjourned until a date to be provided by the Registrar.
But before the adjournment, Gollop, who led the case for Smith, objected to Deputy Solicitor General Donna Brathwaite appearing on behalf of Sir Marston on the grounds that the Chief Justice had not filed an acknowledgement of service or a defence, nor was he present at the hearing. Gollop also submitted that there was no application for an extension of time to file an acknowledgement of service before the court.
He also objected to an appearance by attorney-at-law Laura Harvey-Reid for the Barbados Bar Association. Gollop contended that the Bar was not a party to the proceedings and there was nothing in this case that affected that organization.
He further submitted that the judge should give a ruling on the appearance of Harvey-Reid on the basis that no resolution of the Bar had been produced to the court that she was authorized to act for the association.
Justice Worrell then instructed that written submission should be made and filed by Gollop after which the Government’s attorney would reply.
It was at this point that Smith intervened and requested that Justice Worrell recuse himself.
Smith has expressed doubt that he would get a fair hearing in the Supreme Court of Barbados based on a June 19, 2014 letter which Sir Marston wrote to then Bar Association president Barry Gale, QC supporting the disbarring of lawyers who had not paid their annual subscription fees to the Bar. Smith’s suit against the Chief Justice revolves around the fact that he has not paid his subscription.
The Chief Justice went as far as telling Gale he would instruct the then Acting Registrar of the Supreme Court Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell to inform the attorneys listed in his [Gale’s] correspondence dated June 16, 2014, that their practising certificates would not be valid in the absence of the subscription.
Sir Marston’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, also stated that the acting registrar should direct those lawyers to return their practising certificates as soon as possible. Citing section 10 (2) of the Legal Profession Act, the head of the judiciary wrote, “[this section of the law] … provides that no person should practice law unless he has a practising certificate. In addition, section 45 (3) provides that a practising certificate should not be issued to an attorney-at-law until the annual subscription required by section 44 of the act has been paid.”
Sir Marston informed Gale that, accordingly, a copy of his letter would be sent to each Justice of Appeal, Judge of the High Court and Magistrate informing them that those attorneys who had not paid their subscriptions had no right of any audience before the court.
Smith has been insisting that he had never refused to pay his fees, only the value added tax (VAT), arguing that the Bar Association did not have the authority to charge this tax.