BELIZE CITY–An amendment is due to be tabled in the National Assembly on Friday to remove the requirement for practicing attorneys in Belize to be paying members of the Belize Bar Association.
The Legal Profession Act will also be amended to change the composition of the General Legal Council, which, among other things, hears allegations of misconduct by lawyers. The change will permit other attorneys who are not members of the Bar to serve on the Council through a direct appointment by the Attorney General of Belize.
Officials of the ruling United Democratic Party have criticized the Bar over resolutions it has passed challenging the retention of Justice Samuel on the bench, but also more recently challenging his accession as justice in the Court of Appeal on a 7-year contract. Last Friday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that the Bar, which he said is controlled by a small faction, is political.
Under the existing act, any attorney who wants to practise in Belize has to be a paying member of the Bar, apart from receiving a certificate from the Belize Supreme Court to practice. However, the amendment will mean that attorneys will only need court certification to practise in Belize.
Officials we spoke with said that the requirement for attorneys to be members of the Bar is unconstitutional because it runs contrary to the right to freedom of expression.
Our attempts to reach the president of the Belize Bar Association, Eamon Courtenay, SC, for comment were not successful.