Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | September 28, 2009
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Lawyers plead for accountability - Say barred attorneys hurting professional image
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer


Past president of the Jamaican Bar Association (JBA), John Leiba, is expressing grave concern about the number of lawyers being struck from the roll of the General Legal Council.

The council is the certifying body for lawyers.

According to Leiba, the incidence of lawyers being struck from the roll is eroding confidence in the legal profession.

"It's something that I feel really passionate about. One of the tenets of our profession is that we uphold standards and certainly we want people to be accountable for clients' money," Leiba told The Gleaner yesterday.

On September 17, popular attorney Antonnette Haughton-Cardenas was barred from practising by the disciplinary committee of the General Legal Council.

$2.3m fraud case

The three-member committee said she defrauded a client of $2.3 million in a real-estate transaction.

Last week, The Gleaner sought information from the General Legal Council on the number of lawyers who had been struck off its roll in the past five years but a staffer there was not immediately able to say.

Haughton-Cardenas, a fiery personality who once hosted a radio talk show and led a political party, is among the delinquents. The 54-year-old was admitted to the Bar in 1979 and established herself as a commercial attorney and a vocal advocate for the marginalised.

Leiba, president of the JBA from 2006-08, believes her dismissal is a significant blow.

"When a person like her is struck off, it causes people to lose faith in the system and if you are thinking long term, it's not good for the attorneys," he explained. "When potential clients lose confidence in us it causes them to look for other sources, so it doesn't augur well for all concerned."

Leiba, a commercial lawyer with more than 30 years' experience, said persons who have been struck off the local legal roster can apply for reinstatement. However, he noted, it is rare that they are given a second chance.

Another popular figure

Haughton-Cardenas was a popular figure with the 'average man', many of whom tuned in to her 'Hotline' talk-show programme on Radio Jamaica.

In 2001, she entered politics by forming the United People's Party which contested the general election in October the following year.

The party failed to win a seat. Haughton-Cardenas tallied a paltry 129 votes in her campaign for the St Mary Central seat which was won by the People's National Party's Morais Guy.

Haughton-Cardenas faces more legal trouble, as she is scheduled to answer fraud charges on October 15. She is accused of pocketing $7 million awarded by the Supreme Court to her former client, 60-year-old farmer Samuel Rowe, in October 2006.

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