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CCJ dismisses challenge by aspiring Trinidad and Tobago attorney against laws schools in the region

By CMC

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(CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Friday dismissed a challenge alleging that the admission process of law schools in the region discriminates against holders who do not possess a law degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

In July, this year, Trinidadian Jason Jones, filed an application for special leave against the Council of Legal Education (CLE), the Council for Social and Human Development (COHSOD), and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) regarding the admission policies to the law schools.

The Council of Legal Education was established in 1971 by the agreement establishing the Council of Legal Education and operates three law schools in the region, namely the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica, the Trinidad-based Hugh Wooding Law School and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas.

These law schools award a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) and the agreement provides that no person can be admitted in the signatory countries to practice as an attorney, if he or she does not hold the LEC.

Jones, holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London, a Master of Laws in Oil and Gas Law, and a Graduate Diploma in Law, but he failed the entrance examinations to the regional law schools in 2015 and 2016.

He paid the requisite fees for the examination in 2017 but did not sit the exam saying that he was “too disenchanted and discouraged with the entire process”.

Jones contended that the proposed defendants had infringed, and continue to infringe, his rights and benefits under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which allows for the free movement of skilled nationals and acceptance of qualification among member states, because, without a Legal Education Certificate, he is not entitled to practice law in the region.

In his application, the Trinidadian attorney alleges that the automatic acceptance of persons graduating with law degrees from the UWI into the regional law schools, and the requirement for the holders of “non-UWI” law degrees to sit an entrance exam to gain entrance, was a breach of the treaty.

He argued that holders of degrees from other universities must vie for a very limited number of places which become available only after the automatic admission of UWI graduates.

On August 9 this year, the Caribbean Community (the Community) filed an application contending that the CCJ could not hear a claim against the Council of Legal Education, that COHSOD and

COTED could not be sued as they do not have legal identities and that Jones’ application was “manifestly ill-founded” and therefore inadmissible.

On September 13, the Council of Legal Education also filed an application, making similar objections to the CCJ’s jurisdiction over the Council.

But attorney Emir Crowne, representing Jones, accepted that COHSOD and COTED could not be a party to the application because they had no legal identity and sought to have them substituted by the Community.

The CCJ considered whether to allow the application to continue against the Community. However, the Court concluded that “none of the Treaty provisions that Jones has referred to, namely Articles 35, 36, 37 and 46, show even a glimmer of such a violation.

“Moreover, the one form of discrimination that is prohibited and targeted by the Treaty is discrimination on grounds of nationality,” the CCJ ruled.

The CCJ considered the objection raised that it had no jurisdiction over the CLE, noting that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was made in 2001, after the agreement establishing the Council, makes no mention of the CLE or the agreement.

Furthermore, the CCJ noted that the CLE was not a principal organ of the Community and that it did not even enjoy the status of an institution or associated institution of the Community and as such proceedings could not be commenced against the CLE as an institution of Community.

In view of these considerations, the CCJ dismissed the present application for special leave but left it open for the applicant to decide whether, and how, to seek the redress he claims.

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