By Benjamin Flowers
President of the Belize Bar Association, Eamon Courtenay, this week called the Legal Profession Amendment Bill 2014 a backward step with regard to disciplining attorneys in Belize.
Speaking as a senior counsel, Courtenay said that changes the Bill will give to the Attorney General too much power over the Council’s functions.
“It seems to me that once again we are going to have a General Legal Council designed, fabricated and manufactured in the image of the current Attorney General,” Courtenay said.
“We need a General Legal Council that is not under the control of the Attorney General.”
He added that the Bill, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on September 5, does nothing positive for Belizeans since it proposes to remove from the law the provision that allows the Chief Justice, on the recommendation of the General Legal Council, to discipline attorneys.
The Bill also proposes to remove the mandatory requirement for lawyers in Belize to become members of the Bar Association.
The House committee reviewing the Bill was scheduled to meet this week. However, the meeting was rescheduled to Tuesday, September 30.
Attorney General Sedi Elrington, speaking on the General Legal Council in late August, said that the composition of the council needed to be changed because it was in a “very unsatisfactory state of affairs.”
Elrington accused the Legal Council of being “selective” in which attorneys it chose to discipline, and never followed proper procedure in doing so.
He added that the Council has not been holding regular meetings and blamed the president of the Bar Association for the inactivity.