The General Legal Council, GLC, is adding its voice to concerns about the practice of attorneys making statements to the media concerning pending judicial proceedings, particularly those in criminal matters.
In a letter to the Editor of the Gleaner newspaper today, a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Seymour Panton, denounced the practice.
He wrote that attorneys, by their utterances, are seemingly seeking to influence the jurors and the judges hearing the arguments, outside the confines of the courtroom.
Justice Panton also expressed surprise that the General Legal Council and the various Bar associations have ‘chosen to be asleep while the practice continues’.
In a statement, the GLC said those matters are to be dealt with by the court. It says it’s previously had cause to issue a notice to attorneys to observe the sub-judice rule. It says it’s held several seminars to familiarize attorneys with this rule.
The GLC says attorneys are reminded that statements concerning pending judicial proceedings which may have the effect of influencing the outcome of proceedings is an interference with the administration of justice and as such is punishable as a contempt of court.
According to the GLC, contempt of court fall under the jurisdiction of the court.
It says attorneys are officers of the court and the court retains the jurisdiction to appropriately deal with conduct that constitutes an interference with its administration of justice.
The concerns come as several senior attorneys representing convicted Dancehall star Vybz Kartel and his co-accused, have publicly discussed the case in the media.
Kartel, Andre St. John, Kahira Jones and Shawn Storm, were found guilty in April 2014 of murdering Clive Lizard Williams at a house in Havendale, St. Andrew.
Court of Appeal President, Dennis Morrison, and Justices Patrick Brooks and Frank Williams are hearing the appeal.
Mrs. Neita-Robertson says she doesn’t believe the objection from retired Court of Appeal President, Seymour Panton, to what he says are public comments made by attorneys, relates to the Kartel appeal.
Retired Justice Panton is quoted in the print media today as saying that some attorneys have been misguidedly giving media interviews about cases that are actually in progress.
Mr. Panton says the practice is improper.
He says he’s surprised that the General Legal Council and the various Bar associations have chosen to be asleep while the practice continues.
Queen’s Counsel Neita-Robertson says during his tenure retired Justice Panton was one of her favourite judges.
But, she says she’ll not be muzzled by the retired jurist.
Mrs. Neita-Robertson says it must be noted that the current Kartel Appeal is taking place before a panel of three judges.
She says therefore public comment made by litigants cannot be interpreted as an attempt to unduly influence a jury panel.