Group goes to CCJ for equal access to Law Schools

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Mr Jason Jones, UK Commonwealth Scholar 2014

Jason Jones, President and Co-founder of the Association of Caribbean Students for Equal Access to the Legal Profession (ACSEAL) has initiated legal proceedings in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The action is against the Council for Legal Education (CLE), the Council for Human and Social
Development (COHSOD) and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED),
for the infringement of his rights, as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and a CARICOM
national, to access vocational training in the Region in order to become an Attorney-at-Law,
eligible to practice within CARICOM Member States.

By agreement made among CARICOM Member States, pursuant to the Revised Treaty of
Chaguaramas (RTC) and further, the Treaty establishing the Council for Legal Education, any
CARICOM national can become an Attorney-at-Law eligible to practise in any Member State,
after having first obtained a University of the West Indies (UWI) or an equivalent
undergraduate law degree and then completed vocational training at one of the regional law
Schools, e.g. the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS).

However, since 1996, holders of non-UW Ilaw degrees have consistently been denied equal access to the regional Law Schools on the basis of an entrance examination fraught with discriminatory practices that seemingly contradict CARICOM’s integration principles such as the recognition and acceptance of evidence of qualifications and movement of skilled community nationals. Furthermore, all holders of UWI law degrees are granted automatic exclusive entry to the Regional Law Schools, regardless of their degree classification.

These actions are contrary to the rights/benefits which are intended to confer upon CARICOM
nationals as provided for in the RTC, namely Articles 35, 36, 37 and 46, effectively restricting
participation in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The decision to litigate
was not taken lightly. ACSEAL was established by Mr Jones in March 2016 after he, along
with hundreds of other non-UWI law graduates, was denied entry to the HWLS in 2015. Over
the course of the last year, several attempts were made to schedule a meeting, to no avail, with
the Honourable Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Stuart

Young, who initially promised a meeting for August 2017. Local representatives of ACSEAL
struggled to have discourse with law representatives of the UWI Student Guild and the Law
Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT).

Nevertheless, ACSEAL’s efforts were redoubled regionally through its Chapters in Antigua
and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Montserrat along with alliances in the
University of Guyana (UG) and University of Technology (Utech) out of Jamaica.
Additionally, ACSEAL’s National Representatives endeavoured to engage with the
CARICOM Heads of Government and the Council for Legal Education through the SecretaryGeneralAmbassador Irwin LaRocque.

Indeed, the alacrity of representatives of ACSEAL to participate in the recently concluded ‘Survey of Legal Education in CARICOM Member States’, is testimony that every effort was made to resolve this issue through meaningful dialogue with the various stakeholders.

High commendation must be given to Ambassador LaRocque as it was upon his gracious invitation that ACSEAL was able to participate in the aforementioned survey which notably recommended the abolishment of the CLE Entrance Examination; the establishment of the UTech Law School in Jamaica and the creation of Law Schools in Guyana and Antigua.

The matter is being ably pursued by the distinguished Dr Emir Crowne and Mr Matthew Gayle
of New City Chambers, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Attorneys-at-Law on behalf of the applicant,
Mr Jason Jones. Dr Emir Crowne is to be remembered for the successful claim of
discrimination based on place of origin and ethnic background in Umac v. Custom Black
Incorporated. Mr Gayle is a force to be reckoned with, particularly in matters of the
constitutional law, espousing authoritative arguments as counsel in Jimdar Caterers v The
Board of Inland Revenue, now a leading case in the interpretation and applicability of the rules
of court. ACEAL reposed confidence in Dr Crowne and Mr Gayle to ensure than the interest
of young CARICOM nationals will be treated fairly in their pursuit of professional
development.

This case is of significant interest to Antigua and Barbuda because there are many Antiguan
and Barbudan law students, holding non-UWI law degrees and are desirous to practice, who
are also subjected to the CLE’s alleged discriminatory entry policy. It is ACSEAL’s view that
such an unjustified and unreasonable restriction has had, and if allowed to continue, will have
severe implications for the future integrity and quality of the legal profession. Furthermore,
with the government mulling the establishment of a law school in this jurisdiction to serve the
sub-region, consideration must be given to obligations and expectations derived from the
provisions of the RTC in the establishment of the proposed law school’s entry policy.

 

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