By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian attorney who alleged he was “legally blind” has suffered another defeat in his bid to appeal sanctions imposed upon him relating to the management of a $30m estate.
Justice Milton Evans, in a unanimous Court of Appeal verdict, rejected Gregory Cottis’ effort to appeal penalties imposed for “13 breaches” of Supreme Court orders on the basis that there was “every reason” to believe his conduct was “part of an intentional strategy to delay the action from proceeding”.
Mr Cottis and his attorney, Damian Gomez QC, former minister of state for legal affairs, had gone directly to the Court of Appeal after Justice Indra Charles declined to give them “a second bite at the cherry” to challenge her sanctions order.
Those penalties were imposed after Mr Cottis failed to comply with Justice Charles’ orders requiring him to turn over all records relating to the late Raymond Adams’ estate to the court-appointed judicial trustee.
Attorneys for Robert Adams, Mr Adams’ son and one of the estate’s beneficiaries, have accused Mr Cottis of deliberately “obstructing” the successor trustee, Ernst & Young (EY) accountant, Igal Wizman, in a bid to cover-up his “incompetence.... and hold the estate hostage to his own illegitimate attempts to recover more than his legally-entitled compensation”.
However, Mr Gomez argued before the Court of Appeal that Mr Cottis’ case “has a real prospect of success”, while it “also raised a point of public interest” concerning access to the judicial system at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated Supreme Court rules.
Legal filings show that Mr Cottis has gone through several high-profile attorneys to defend his action prior to Mr Gomez. These include now-chief justice, Sir Brian Moree, who was the first attorney, involved, and subsequently Loren Klein, now also a Supreme Court justice, who was acting when Mr Cottis was said to have become incapacitated and “legally blind” due to “detached retinas”.
However, Chris Jenkins, of Lennox Paton, who was acting for Robert Adams, argued that Mr Cottis’ proposed appeal was “hopeless” and sought to introduce documents that were never placed before the Supreme Court when it heard the bid for sanctions relief.
Appeal Justice Evans, in his written verdict, added there was sufficient evidence upon which Justice Charles could rule that “Mr Cottis has had a long and blemished history of non-compliance with court orders, as well as non-cooperation with the judicial trustee”.
And, while Mr Gomez had argued that Justice Charles did not sufficiently consider the COVID-19 emergency, and the restrictions this placed on litigants and attorneys, Appeal Justice Evans said this was not argued before the Supreme Court.
“I have carefully reviewed the learned judge’s reasons for dismissing the intended appellant’s [Mr Cottis] action,” he ruled. “These reasons have been set out fully in her judgment and are, in my view clearly reasoned and disclose no error of law.
“The essence of her finding was that the intended appellant has had a long and blemished history of non-compliance with court orders, as well as non-cooperation with the judicial trustee. Further, that there is no reason to suppose that this conduct may change and every reason to surmise that this conduct is part of an intentional strategy to delay the action from proceeding.”
Appeal Justice Evans found that Mr Cottis’ action had “no realistic prospects of success”, with the grounds of appeal raising no issues in the public interest or a point of law that needs clarifying.