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Judgment against senior government lawyer referred to police

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden. (File photograph)

A judge has ordered that a dispute between a senior Government lawyer and former clients be referred to the police after the lawyer pledged to repay the clients more than $70,000.

The Supreme Court heard that lawyer Myron Simmons, who is a senior Crown counsel but was then trading as law firm Lightbourne & Simmons, was given $52,000 by Gena and Richard Robinson in 2011 to cover the cost of stamp duty for a deed of voluntary conveyance.

But the Robinsons discovered in 2019 that the transaction had not gone through because the stamp duty had never been paid.

Mr Simmons, the husband of Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General, agreed in a consent judgment dated March 22 that he would pay back the plaintiff’s $52,000, together with just over $18,800 in interest.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden said in a March 29 decision that he would accept the consent judgment.

But he also raised concerns about the “very serious” allegations set out in the statement of claim.

The judge said: “In light of the serious allegations set out in the statement of claim which potentially breach the professional duties of the defendant, I am satisfied that it is just that I should refer this matter to the chairman of the Bermuda Bar Association Professional Conduct Committee for any action as appropriate in all the circumstances.

“Further, it appears to me that the facts set out in the statement of claim give rise to suspicious conduct by the defendant in respect of his handling of client funds entrusted to him for onward payment to the Office of the Tax Commissioner.

“Therefore, I am satisfied that it is just that I should refer this matter to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions for any action as appropriate in all the circumstances.”

Mr Simmons, a Senior Crown Counsel with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, told The Royal Gazette yesterday that he had explained the circumstances of what happened to the Robinsons.

He said: “The judge seems to have formed opinions without hearing arguments.

“I guess he just felt it was his duty, but there were no arguments before the court, so I don’t know how he could have.”

The Supreme Court heard that the plaintiffs had hired Mr Simmons to assist with the conveyancing of a home from Mrs Robinson’s mother to them.

They gave Mr Simmons $52,000 in November 2011 to pay the Office of the Tax Commissioner to cover the cost of stamp duty.

But they discovered in May 2019 that the home was still registered under Ms Robinson’s mother’s name as the stamp duty had never been paid and the transfer of ownership had never taken place.

Mr Justice Mussenden said: “Since May 2019 the plaintiffs have made repeated demands to the defendant both orally and by e-mail.

“The statement of claim also sets out that the defendant has admitted his liability to repay the funds but has to date failed, refused and/or neglected to repay the funds or any portion thereof to the plaintiffs.”

The judge said the consent judgment did not immediately close the matter as the plaintiffs may still have to wait to be repaid.

Mr Justice Mussenden added: “Unless the Stamp Duty has been paid to the OTC by some other funds from the plaintiffs, the transaction remains incomplete and the plaintiffs may still not have title to the property.

“That in itself can present problems to the plaintiffs in dealing with the property.

“In my view, it could be said that the plaintiffs have been robbed of all the joys of home ownership, an emotional and factual experience that they thought they had since 2011.”

Mr Justice Mussenden ordered that copies of his judgment should be sent to the Bermuda Bar Association professional conduct committee, the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions “for any action as appropriate in all the circumstances”.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.