The highly anticipated and controversial Legal Practitioners Bill was listed for the LA on Friday (October 14), but it took a back seat to the Elections Law changes which generated intense debate.
But hours before that Financial Services Minister Hon Wayne Panton was in the hot seat last night (Thursday October 13) defending the contentious bill at the Family Life Centre where lawyers had their say on the legislation in a public consultation.
They came, they saw, they questioned. Attorneys, the people impacted by the Legal Practitioners Bill made their voices heard last night like attorney Selina Tibbetts who opened the question and answer segment of the consultation on the long overdue legislation.
“Why so secretive? What are you hiding? What’s in here that no-one can know about? Or you do not want people to discover. I just want to understand. I think it is unjustified and I think it is an insult to the rest of the practitioners out there that we were not given an opportunity and time to review this,” Ms Tibbetts said.
Financial Services Minister Hon Wayne Panton, who’s leading the charge with the bill in the House, sought to set the record straight on Government’s approach to the bill.
“There was no intent to conceal anything, there was no intent to hide anything and in fact the bill is there, it is very clear as to what it says,” Mr Panton said.
The minister faced more than two hours of questions on various parts of the bill; from the composition of the Cayman Islands Law Practitioners Association (CILPA) which will represent the entire profession to mandatory Caymanian ownership in law firms, as well as, lack of training programmes as raised by attorney Richard Barton.
“Now if you are saying in the law that you have failed Caymanians or to train them then how can you correlate to may? It is a certainty, but the greater point is there is no punitive component,” Mr Barton said.
However the minister contended the bill gives the legal fraternity systems, which never existed before, and was the culmination of two years of consultation with the Caymanian Bar Association and Law Society.
However he reminded attendees this bill is not the end of the road..
“We can make committee stage amendments when we get to committee stage in the Legislative Assembly that is typical of this process. You consider comments and you make changes to the bill to reflect the comments that are agreed,” Mr Panton said.
Former government minister Cline Glidden Jr. also added his comments on the bill seeking clarity on how the bill applies to overseas firms. There was also a plug for legal aid fees to be increased.
While the attorneys agreed the bill was a long time in coming, fifteen years to be exact, they contend more adjustments were necessary.