Lawyers file petition seeking to censure AG

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Reginald Armour –

Darren Bahaw

A group of 40 lawyers petitioned the Law Association on Wednesday to convene a special general meeting to vote on a motion of no-confidence against Attorney General (AG) Reginald Armour SC.

The action follows a decision by the council of the Law Association on Tuesday to begin an investigation into allegations of a possible breach of the code of ethics of the Legal Profession Act by the attorney general as a consequence of a ruling in a US court on May 2.

Armour, 65, who was appointed as AG on March 16 by the Prime Minister is expected to return to the country on Thursday after leaving on Tuesday to attend to official business in the Bahamas, a government source said. No details were given on the matter he attended.

A source close to the AG said he has maintained that he has done nothing wrong.

There has been a chorus of calls for the AG’s immediate resignation or for the Prime Minister to fire him after news broke on June 5, detailing the US court’s ruling. Dr Rowley has not responded to media queries on the issue.

In the latest development, attorney Kiel Taklalsingh, in a covering letter to Law Association president Sophia Chote SC, said some of his colleagues have taken note of the allegations in the public domain against the Attorney General and believe the issue should be ventilated in a special general meeting of the membership of the association.

“Respectfully, these allegations, if left unaddressed have the potential to erode public confidence in our profession, the administration of justice and the rule of law.”

The lawyer said the AG’s continued silence in the matter “is unsatisfactory” as the matters concern the “integrity of our profession” and cannot be considered state secrets.

The petition also seeks a response from the AG “to ensure that the principles of natural justice are observed.”

Lawyers who signed the petition intend to argue that the AG, as the titular head of the bar of TT, is an ambassador of the legal profession and “is entrusted with a special and sacred duty to conduct himself in a manner that instils public trust and confidence in the profession and the administration of justice.”

The petition states that the AG is also required to be honest and forthright in the conduct of public affairs and has a duty to preserve and protect the rule of law by ensuring that any representations made to courts of law are truthful and accurate to the best of his knowledge.

“The rule of law would be defeated and frustrated if evidence and/or representations made to a court of law by the honourable Attorney General were untruthful or misleading.

Armour, in a statement on June 4, said he was “walled off” from the case by the US law firm after he disclosed his potential conflict of interest “other than case management issues” which included signing off on a settlement from a co-operating witness who agreed to pay US$4 million in compensation to TT, testify in the local matters against his co-accused, and settle outstanding invoices to the firm. Over TT$20 million has been paid to the firm which was retained in 2004 by former attorney general John Jeremie.

Twelve of the Law Association’s 18-member council agreed to probe the AG’s conduct after he was disqualified from taking part in a multi-million dollar civil forfeiture case against former finance minister Brian Kuei Tung and others in Maimi-Dade Circuit Court which has been dragging on for the past 18 years linked to the construction of the $1.6 billion Piarco Airport terminal project.

Armour had represented Kuei Tung and his then-girlfriend Renee Pierre in related criminal proceedings in TT and even though he disclosed this to the US law firm, Sequor Law, retained by the state in the civil forfeiture case he admitted he signed off a witness settlement agreement, dropped a complaint, settled invoices and other administrative work related to the same case.

In an affidavit in response to a motion to strike out the US lawsuit filed by Kuei Tung, the attorney general claimed he played a minimal role as the defendants’ lawyer limited to “legal research and taking notes.”

The Opposition on Tuesday filed a motion of no confidence against Armour in the House of Representatives and called for a criminal investigation to be initiated by US authorities on a complaint of perjury.