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Published 2nd February 2007, 2:57pm

A draft Legal Practitioners Bill providing for more modern regulation and discipline of the legal profession is now open for public comment.

Subjected to a number of revisions involving private and public sector attorneys, work on this draft Legal Practitioners Bill by the Law Reform Commission started in September 2005 after its referral by the Attorney-General Sam Bulgin. If passed into law, it would replace the current Legal Practitioners Law (2003 Revision).

Copies of this draft Bill can now be obtained at the office of the Law Reform Commission, 3rd floor Anderson Square, George Town for a public consultation that ends on 20 February 2007 after which any newly submitted comments will be reviewed with a view to incorporating further amendments. Once the Bill is finalised by the Commission it will be sent to the Attorney-General for his approval.

The first draft of this Legal Practitioners Bill was prepared by the Legislative Drafting department following instructions from Attorney General Samuel Bulgin in 2003. Material for the draft was based on proposals of the Caymanian Bar Association and the Cayman Islands Law Society.

Mr Bulgin and Chief Justice Anthony Smellie reviewed the draft in 2004 and instructed on further revisions. In 2005 the Attorney General referred the Bill to the Law Reform Commission for further review. The Commission invited renewed participation of the Law Society and the Bar Association. One law firm, Appleby Spurling Hunter, also made submissions.

Those combined recommendations are contained in the draft Bill now open to public consultation.

One of the two major inserts in this draft that are not contained in the current law provide for establishment of a Complaints Committee to hear grievances against practising attorneys-at-law. The other transformation introduces a Disciplinary Tribunal that is empowered to hear complaints against these professionals and if found guilty impose penalties of fines and/ or disbarment. Action taken against such legal practitioners will also be reported to the sanctioning authority in any other jurisdiction that the person practices.

The current law simply authorizes a judge to suspend an offending attorney-at-law from practising for any specified period.

But in addition to a wide range of powers, the Complaints Committee and Disciplinary Tribunal will comprise a number of people some of whom need not be attorneys.

It is proposed that the Complaints Committee will comprise nine persons which will include six attorneys appointed by presidents of the Law Society and the Bar Association. Another attorney will be appointed by the Attorney General. The remaining two, will be appointed by the Chief Justice, do not have to be attorneys but persons bearing knowledge in specified areas.

The Bill provides that the Chief Justice can chair the three-person Disciplinary Tribunal, or nominate a Grand Court Judge to function on his behalf. He will also appoint the remaining two persons after consultation with the Law Society and the Bar Association, but only one of these has to be an attorney, while the other must be knowledgeable in specified areas.

Also set out in the Bill is a detailed Code of Professional Conduct which will regulate an attorney's personal conduct as well as his relationship with his client, the public and with the courts.