The Senate, on June 29, postponed debate on the Legal Profession Act, due to the late submission of a review of the proposed legislation by the Jamaica Bar Association of Jamaica.
The Bill seeks to enhance the conduct of attorneys-at-law, and the quality of service they provide.
Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding opened the debate on June 8, but the discussions were suspended to facilitate contributions from other members of the Senate and to also allow the Jamaica Bar Association of Jamaica to review the contents of the Bill.
At today’s sitting of the Upper House, Leader of Government Business, Senator A. J. Nicholson, expressed annoyance with the delay.
“I was so surprised when I came this morning for the Minister of Justice to tell me that five minutes or so before the beginning of the sitting, that was the time he was receiving these comments.
“We have to do better than that as a country. We are 50 years old, not 50 months. With respect, I am going to suggest that (we) ask for a further postponement of the debate, so that the comments that he (Justice Minister) has received can be circulated and everybody will have an opportunity to look at them,” Senator Nicholson said.
According to the Memorandum of Objects and Reasons, the Bill requires institutions holding funds for an attorney’s client to pay over such funds to the General Legal Council to be deposited in a special account for the benefit of the client.
It also empowers the Council to obtain a Court Order to require the redirection of postal articles (originally destined for an attorney’s address) to an address provided by the Council; and to administer a compensation fund from which grants may be made to compensate, on an ex gratia basis, the loss of client property.
There are also provisions for the maintenance of client trust accounts at licensed financial institutions and building societies, in addition to banks; and to empower the Council to make regulations requiring attorneys to furnish accountant’s reports, and institute a programme of continuing legal professional development for attorneys.
It also empowers the Minister to amend, by order published in the Gazette and subject to affirmative resolution, the penalties set out in the Act, upon the recommendation of the General Legal Council.
The proposed legislation builds on previous amendments to the Act which, among other things, enlarged and clarified the jurisdiction of the Council’s Disciplinary Committee.
It is being proposed that the debate on the Bill will take place at the next sitting of the Senate on July 13, 2012.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter