Attorneys have until May 20 to apply for ‘silk’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC. – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

ATTORNEYS who wish to be considered for appointment as senior counsel are being asked to submit applications to the Attorney General by midnight of May 20.

In a notice gazetted on May 13, Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, advised the appointment would be according to the 1964 legal notice, which sets out the procedure for appointing senior counsel, or silk.

Armour’s notice says applicants must have professional eminence and distinction, which establishes them as leaders of the profession; sound intellectual ability; thorough, comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of law and practice in the fields in which they practise; and outstanding ability as an advocate in the higher courts.

Applicants are also required to have the highest professional standing, having gained the respect of the bench and profession in observing the advocate’s duty to the court and the administration of justice while presenting their clients’ case and being formidable, fair and honourable as an opponent.

The notice also said applicants must have total professional integrity, maturity of judgment and balance, and a high-quality practice with at least ten years experience based on demanding cases, which allow the full measure of the preceding qualities to be demonstrated.

“All attorneys-at-law who are desirous of being considered for appointment are requested to submit an application in the prescribed form for consideration by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.”

Application forms are available on the ministry’s website and are to be emailed to [email protected].

The last appointment of senior counsel was in May 2023, when 17 attorneys were elevated to the Inner Bar, among them Kerwyn Garcia, husband of President Christine Kangaloo, raising questions about the selection process.

However, Kangaloo dismissed the scepticism, reminding that her office did not select attorneys to be appointed senior counsel.

Under the procedure, the Attorney General first invites senior attorneys who have distinguished themselves in the profession to apply for the honour.

The Attorney General then consults with the Chief Justice and other stakeholders before discussing the applications with the Prime Minister, who advises the President on who should be appointed.

There have been calls for a review of the selection of candidates for senior counsel.

In 2023, Armour said the selection procedure existed before this country gained Independence in 1962 and acknowledged the calls for an overhaul of the process. At the time, he said it was “under review.”

In 2015, the Law Association passed a resolution that the award should be granted by the President on the recommendation of an independent panel. The association’s resolution came after it compiled a report on the issue, which strongly advocated for the independence of the profession and, in particular, the bar.

In 2018, the association again called for transparency in the process.