By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE BAHAMAS Bar Association's Ethics Committee received close to 80 complaints in 2017, it's president said Friday, with just 12 per cent of that total currently settled and/or closed.
Kahlil Parker, in his address to mark the opening of the 2018 Legal Year, said the committee received 76 complaints last year, six of which have been closed and three of which have since been settled. One complaint was withdrawn, Mr Parker said.
Four of those complaints have been referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal, Mr Parker said. Complaints not referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal are either awaiting information from the complainant or a response from the attorney concerned and are under "active review" by the Ethics Committee.
Nonetheless, Mr Parker said the Bar Council has placed "increased emphasis" on the work of the Ethics Committee and the Disciplinary Tribunal "so as to ensure that members of the public and the attorneys who may be the subject of a complaint receive prompt, efficient and transparent service".
He added that 20 new lawyers were called to the Bar in 2017.
During his speech, Mr Parker also addressed the need to "ensure the judicial independence of governance and resources, which is necessary to make real the Constitutional guarantee of a fair and impartial court.
He said the "tragedy" facing the Bar Council is its members "suffering the effects of systemic neglect".
"We have judges whose trial calendars extend into 2020, through no fault of their own," he said. "Which constitutes an abuse of both the judges themselves and our clients who are being denied justice.
"It is a situation we cannot abide. It is a crisis in all but name".
In 2012, then-BBA President Ruth Bowe-Darville said the Ethics Committee received 131 complaints the year prior that resulted in several lawyer suspensions.
Mrs Bowe-Darville said at the time that 24 of those complaints were referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal for further action and of those, 17 were withdrawn, settled or resolved.
The suspensions included orders of payment and suspensions as pre-conditions to disbarment; however she said at the time that two suspensions were being appealed.