Prospective lawyers from T&T, who completed their post-graduate qualifications in the United Kingdom, have been granted a lifeline in their bid to be called to the bar before the end of the year.
On Wednesday, Appellate Judge Prakash Moosai granted a stay of a recent judgement which struck down a law, which gave citizens with such qualifications a short-cut into the provision over Caricom nationals.
Moosai's decision means that those persons can now seek to be admitted to practice during the next call to the bar scheduled for late October or early November.
The appeal of the case is scheduled to be heard by a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in December. The court is expected to resolve the issue before another batch of prospective attorneys, who are currently enrolled in foreign programmes, may seek to utilise the provision, next year.
Presenting submissions in the stay application, Rishi Dass, who represented the Office of the Attorney General suggested that the judgement affected scores of citizens who were not at fault.
He also suggested that Grenada-born St Lucian national Dianne Jhamilly Hadeed, who brought the lawsuit, would not be prejudiced by the stay as she would not have been able to qualify even with the judgement.
In the controversial lawsuit, Hadeed, who resides in Trinidad, challenged Section 15 (1A) of the Legal Profession Act. The segment of the legislation gives T&T citizens who do not obtain a post-graduate Legal Education Certificate (LEC) from the Hugh Wooding Law School an avenue to be admitted to practice law.
Citizens, who obtain post-graduate qualifications in the United Kingdom or another Commonwealth jurisdiction and are admitted to practice in those countries, qualify under the section after completing a short six-month course at the law school instead of the competitive two-year LEC programme, which has limited spaces but is open to all Caricom nationals.
In his judgement, Kokaram acknowledged that there were legitimate concerns which the legislation sought to address including limited spaces at the law school and the need to develop this country's legal fraternity.
However, he suggested that they were not justifiable as he questioned why there was a distinction between T&T citizens and Caricom nationals.
Kokaram also noted that the Government admitted that the legislation offended Caricom treaties which T&T is a party but claimed that it was done to help build a cadre of lawyers in T&T.
In his judgement, Kokaram decided to strike down the legislation as opposed to amending it to include Caricom nationals.
Instead, he advised Parliament to amend the legislation or appeal the decision.
The AG's Office chose the latter option.
Kokaram's decision did not affect attorneys who were admitted before it was delivered, as it did not have a retrospective effect.
Reporter: Derek Achong