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No value for money in hiring “top” lawyers, PM

FeaturesNo value for money in hiring “top” lawyers, PM

By Colin Hyde

   Junior lawyers in the employ of government weren’t too pleased when the PM said they didn’t have the savvy to go up against the high-priced bohgaz in private employ. Hmm, on a straight line, it is true that junior lawyers will get walloped by senior ones. Why, then, aren’t we consoled that the GOB is about contracting senior lawyers to appear for us in court? It is because, when in our employ, they lose all our cases. Whoa there, we don’t need them. With the right support, junior lawyers can defend us well.   

   I think we need to get to the bottom of what’s going on here. Let’s get this very, very clear. If all the facts are laid on the table, there is no doubt how a case will go. Take Section 53, for example. That was simply a judge’s interpretation of rights. The court case was almost only theater. Before Caleb went to court, the judge already knew what he would do, if Caleb’s crowd didn’t absolutely botch their arguments.

   There are cases where all the facts aren’t on the table, and that’s when the work of lawyers is premium. But lawyers aren’t the only group that is capable of gathering facts. The reality is, there’s a group that is more capable at gathering information. The daily workload of scientists – doctors, physicists, chemists, agronomists, and pathologists, and the daily workload of historians make those groups the masters of research.

   These groups not only know how to dig out facts, but their minds have a clarity that is unmatched in other fields. That explains, in my opinion, why Manuel Esquivel’s approach to the BTL case was superior to that of Barrow and his battery of high-priced lawyers.

   The following is taken from page 268 of the book, Still Waters, which was written by Kathy Esquivel: “Manuel [our former PM] supported Dean’s efforts to take back ownership of BTL…[he] thought that Dean’s reliance on his own legal acumen as a guide was unwise…Manuel admits that he does not have a magic formula that would have worked better, but thinks that it was ill-advised to assume that being morally right would be an advantage in foreign law courts.” Of course, where this morality angle really sucked was in the UHS case. What were Dean and his party thinking?!

   My bwai, gyal, more from Still Waters, re: taking back BTL: “[Manuel] believes that it would have been better to take an incremental approach, starting with litigating on the lawfulness of the transfer of the Golden Share to Ashcroft.” Go, Manuel!

   Look, Braa, you could have taken me, a total dummy on law, off the streets, and I could not have done worse than the brilliant UDP lawyers did. You don’t have to go to law school to know that courts abroad will protect foreign investors. You’d have to be naïve to believe that the CCJ’s selling point, that in court it would be more responsive than the Privy crowd to situations in our area, would play out in business. That was/is strictly to do with capital crimes and the sensational hanging. 

   The legal profession doesn’t look so good. Why did Senate president Carolyn Trench Sandiford say she decided not to study law? Aiyayai, everyone knows that juries make no sense in murder trials in this era. You don’t have to be an A-student; you just have to look at the numbers.

   Ah, I’ve been to court twice. In the first, I told the prosecution that my evidence really belonged to the defense. In court, the defense used my evidence to win the case. The court shocked me when the judge, after his ruling, returned the weapon that was used to cause injury, to the one who had used it. That judge later got himself mixed up with big lawyer people and was chased out of court.

   The second time I went to court, the accused pleaded guilty before I gave my testimony, which would have set him free. I believed the accused stole two dollars from my home, after breaking my window and entering it. He was arrested because he fit the description I had given and because he was found in our village. I expected if I got to the stand that I would have been asked to swear on the Bible that the person in the dock had entered my house. There are a few special individuals who with one glance at a stranger can pick them out of a police lineup of similar-looking people. I’m not gifted that way. 

   I didn’t have any guilt trip later, because the accused had a string of other charges pending that were similar to the breaking and entering charge in my village. But you know why I rehashed those stories? The first is wikidnis. The second is that in a murder trial with a jury, all a defense lawyer has to do is shake an eyewitness testimony, and his client gaan clear. But in a murder trial with a judge, defense lawyers have to do a whole heap more than make a reluctant eyewitness waver.

   The lawyers never produced a pound of beef, but they eat rib-eye. Fair enough, if rich people want to pay them the dough. But we can do much better with the ones we can afford, if we give them the support they need. My, former PM Manuel Esquivel hit the nail directly on the head. Ouch, lawyers taking morality to a foreign court against big business. And we paid them through our noses for that! It’s nothing but a charade, a sham.

   How could any formidable lawyer so misunderstand the system he was brought up in? Bah, Hubert Elrington once said of our former leader that he was all glitter and no substance. Because our PetroCaribe soft loans and BNE taxes were such a large sum that the UDP couldn’t waste it all, along the way, we got some real pretty toys. The fountain at the junction of the George Price and Hummingbird highways is still functional. The Civic Center in Belize City is still a First World sight. And the bridge that was planned over the Belize River near Haulover Creek, was supposed to rival Altun Ha as a tourist attraction. Who cares about poverty; let’s look flashy.

   We know the real deal about the failed cases. It was all about political mileage, winning elections for the red party. To heck with the people, the UDP wanted to grow up to be like George Price, winning all dem elections, not to be like Philip Goldson, who only cared about the country.

    I’m not saying the A’s for Eamon and Coye are for attendance. I’m saying their stars, like the one of the super smug Godfrey Smith, shone real bright off cases that our GOB mishandled. PM, our junior lawyers can defend Belize well if they are humble enough to accept coupling with willing UB historians and scientists that worked for the government in their day. Manuel Esquivel wasn’t a lawyer, but he saw through the weak Barrow approach.

   Don’t let these high-priced lawyers eat rib-eye and pigtail off our treasury again. You are a businessman, that’s what you repeatedly told the Barrow party when the PUP was in opposition. Businessmen are supposed to be good at math. How do we explain the math behind hiring $500-an- hour, thousand-dollars-an-hour lawyers, in a country where the minimum wage isn’t even $5 per hour?

   We have lawyers in our employ who know the fundamentals. We pay them well, $50,000 a year. With the correct assistance, they can get the job done. Bah, high-priced lawyers go to court and bring back results no junior lawyer would be proud of. 

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