Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Legal Council cuts off Foote - Accused of misrepresenting court award to client by $9m; vows to fight the charges

Published:Thursday | November 28, 2019 | 12:34 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter

Well-known attorney Don Foote has been struck from the roll of lawyers authorised to practise in Jamaica over claims that he under-reported by $9 million the amount awarded to a woman he represented in a lawsuit.

He is the seventh lawyer struck from the roll of attorneys this year, representing a record number of disbarments for a calendar year in the last decade. Six attorneys were disbarred in 2017 and five last year.

The woman reportedly testified before a disciplinary panel of the General Legal Council (GLC) that Foote indicated to her that the court awarded her $14 million in the lawsuit she filed against the Government. She said that as agreed, the attorney deducted his legal fees.

However, the woman claimed that at the urging of a friend, she conducted her own checks and later discovered that the court award was in the amount of $23 million.

She asserted that in the end, she was paid the difference minus $2.3 million, which, according to her, was deducted as “legal fees”.

The decision by the GLC’s disciplinary panel to yank Foote’s law licence was imposed on Saturday, weeks after he was found guilty of professional misconduct.

Flawed not fair

Foote confirmed yesterday that he had been informed of the GLC’s decision but blasted it as “flawed” and made it clear that he would not go away quietly.

He lashed out at both his accuser and the GLC, calling the claim that he under-reported the court award “contrived” and complained that he did not receive a fair trial.

“She is lying and she is being set up by a third party. The allegations are false, and they are not made out. In my opinion, the trial was not fair, and that is the basis on which it will be challenged,” Foote vowed.

“It will be quickly challenged. I am waiting on the [written] decision [signed by the GLC] to put it in the Court of Appeal,” he continued.

Foote is one of seven attorneys who have been disbarred this year. Two of them, Hopeton Clarke and Kenneth McLeod, were struck from the roll of attorneys on October 26. Others include Debayo Adedipe and Paulette Warren Smith.

A total of 34 attorneys have been disbarred in the last decade, including well-known names such as Harold Brady, Michael Lorne, Antonnette Cardenas, and Jennifer Messado.

A senior attorney explained that the allegations against Foote, if true, amount to a serious breach of the Legal Profession Act.

Foote insisted, however, that the woman was fully aware of the $23 million award and “executed documentation to that effect”.

“That is not true because she signed off on documentation and swore to it before a justice of the peace,” the attorney said, refuting the claim that he misrepresented the amount awarded by the court.