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The way Moniz defines our courts is a telling story

Nothing defines a government more than they way it interprets the role and access to its courts. We got a great lesson on this point in the US elections where the Republicans have refused to ratify a Supreme Court justice proposed by President Barack Obama.

We all should take note of our Attorney-General Trevor Moniz's position in refusing the request of numerous lawyers to allow the practice of lawyers having an agreement about fees where they get paid on the successful outcome of a case.

The Attorney-General claims he has not heard any rationale warranting such lawyer-client agreements, and further that he does not want to see Bermuda become a highly litigious society like the United States. Said differently, he prefers a society where the powerful and wealthy can crush and trample upon the poor, who do not have the means to defend themselves through the courts.

Now let's understand that it has been highly respected lawyers, indeed the Bar Association, who have been fighting the cause and making their voices heard through their organisation, not some rogue group. It becomes a very telling story when the Minister of Justice for the One Bermuda Alliance defines the role of the courts and access to legal council in the way he does. It reminds me of Dame Lois Browne-Evans, who initially rejected the Office of Ombudsman, claiming “that's what the courts are for”.

We can forget all the throne speeches or talks about the economy when all that you work for can be whittled away through injustice through the courts owing to the financial inability to protect what you earned. There is no such thing as equality or democracy when access to justice is not equal. This item pulls against the narrative of being a government concerned about the welfare of all, which is how the OBA would like to be seen. It pegs the party to an old paradigm, one that it has desperately tried to convince the voter it is are not.

It is to be hoped the Attorney-General is not exercising a political agenda. To do so would not only be an abuse of power, but also a tyranny when you can use the power of the $1.4 billion national budget as a war chest, along with a chamber of lawyers and others on retainer, to protect against the Government from a poor litigant. Unless, of course, the Attorney-General innocently interprets that his role and that of the courts as not to preserve justice for all, but rather to protect the “evil king”.

It is like the effect President-elect Donald Trump is having with his statement “government for all people”, and then appointing Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, to a key position in the White House.

In our case it is the Minister of Justice for the OBA who expresses these opinions and has taken the stance against client-lawyer agreements on fees.

Therefore, the OBA cannot distance itself from his opinion; it must own it. We, the people, don't need to own it and should make our voices heard in support of the Bar Association.

Food for thought: we all should take note of our Attorney-General Trevor Moniz's position in refusing the request of numerous lawyers to allow the practice of lawyers having an agreement about fees where they get paid on the successful outcome of a case

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Published November 23, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 23, 2016 at 7:42 am)

The way Moniz defines our courts is a telling story

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