Sat | Oct 24, 2020

Foote keeps toehold on licence - Calls GLC ‘a kangaroo court’

Published:Friday | December 20, 2019 | 12:46 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Don Foote
Don Foote

The Court of Appeal has put on hold a decision by the General Legal Council (GLC) to strike well-known attorney Don Foote from the list of lawyers who are authorised to practise in Jamaica.

Foote was granted a temporary stay of the punishment by Justice Frank Williams yesterday after he filed a 12-point appeal against the GLC’s decision.

Williams also ordered attorneys for both sides to appear before the Court of Appeal on January 14 when Foote’s legal challenge will be heard, the veteran attorney told The Gleaner.

Foote was found guilty of professional misconduct by a disciplinary panel of the GLC arising from claims by a client that he under-reported by $9 million the amount she was awarded by the Supreme Court in a lawsuit she filed against the Government.

As punishment, the GLC ordered last month that he be struck from the roll of practising attorneys.

The veteran attorney trumpeted the ruling by the Court of Appeal before unleashing a blistering attack on the GLC, the body that regulates the legal profession in Jamaica.

“I have maintained and asserted that the panel is a kangaroo court set up specifically to get me. It’s a kangaroo court; you can quote me,” he said.

Further, Foote disclosed that he is currently retained in 49 criminal and 44 civil cases and described how the “surprise” decision of the GLC “created worldwide negative publicity” for him and disrupted his law practice.

The GLC ruling has had “a haemorrhaging effect on my hitherto reputable practice of law built up over 35 years,” he argued in documents filed with the appeal court.

Row over damages

The woman reportedly testified before the three-member disciplinary panel that Foote informed her that an award of $14 million was made in her case. She said that, as agreed, the attorney deducted his legal fees.

However, the woman indicated that at the urging of a friend, she conducted her own checks and and later discovered that the court award was $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”.

Foote has denied under-reporting the award to his client.

The attorney is contending, as the main grounds for his appeal, that the GLC “acted with irregularity in the conduct of the proceedings by permitting a third party to be present throughout the hearings and to coach the complainant in the giving of her evidence”.

He argued that by doing this, the disciplinary panel “deprived itself of jurisdiction and rendered the proceedings null and void”.

Foote claimed, too, that the disciplinary panel made adverse findings of fact before they started hearing evidence and charged that both issues deprived him of his constitutional and common-law right to a fair hearing.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com