Sunday, April 21, 2024

Nikita and the law


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IN THE NOVEL Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, which is set in the 1830s, the character Mr Bumble was told that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. The highly incensed Mr Bumble replied, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass.”  
Today, in the early 21st century, given the behaviour of one particular lawyer in the United States, it would seem that the law might be not so much an ass as a piece of one.
An article headlined, Lawyer Is Charged With Prostitution, Allegedly Tells Police She Gave It Up After Passing Bar stated, “An Illinois lawyer recently admitted to the bar has been charged with prostitution after police say they discovered emails setting up trysts as part of an unrelated investigation. 
Police charged Reema Bajaj [a law graduate of Northern Illinois University] of Sycamore with three counts of prostitution, the Daily Chronicle reports. Bajaj allegedly admitted engaging in prostitution before she obtained her law licence in November, but said she gave it up after becoming a lawyer, a prosecutor tells the newspaper.”
Unfortunately, it did not end there. She was allowed to keep her Illinois law licence but then had problems attracting clients for her legal services.
Ms Bajaj then dissolved her law practice and sued three lawyers, including her own defence attorney, for circulating nude photos of her, causing her emotional distress and hurting her ability to generate business (for her law practice). She is seeking US$50 000.
Subsequent information shows that between 2005 and 2008, before she became an attorney, Bajaj posted online ads under the name “Nikita” and accepted money from two men in exchange for sex. It is claimed that the first man paid her $200 for sex at a hotel, then paid her $100 per meeting for about 25 encounters they had over the next three years. A second man paid her between $25 and $70 in cash or an equivalent amount in DVDs, gift cards and even office supplies for her legal practice. In other words, prostitution was her staple activity until her practice became stationary.
Bajaj is not the only “badass” around. An article headlined Lawyer Gets Wasted, Throws Panties At Police said, “You know you’ve had a bad weekend when you’re a lawyer and a video of your bare ass is making its rounds on the Internet. We suppose things like this tend to happen after you’ve gone on an admitted bender and thrown your panties at the police while screaming ‘Suck my [vulgar feline term]’ and ‘Eat my ass, you (vulgarism for cohabitating) pigs!’”
Stephanie Hendricks, a graduate of Willamette Law who clerked for the Oregon Supreme Court after graduation, has been charged with a number of crimes, including theft of services, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and exposure. However, her problems are minor compared with those of John David Arganbright, who was escorted out of a prestigious New York law firm when it found out that he had been previously convicted of a sex offence.  
What would happen to any of these lawyers or others who break the law in the Caribbean? On February 14, 2013, the Jamaica Gleaner ran an extremely interesting article headlined Bad Lawyers – More Than 200 Complaints Against Attorneys Last Year. The story said that despite disposing of 185 public complaints to the General Legal Council (GLC) over the period, the GLC still had 436 cases at year-end.
Nick Herbert, Britain’s Minister of State for policing and criminal justice in launching a new approach by his ministry, said, “It is a basic principle of justice that it should be delivered without delay. Magna Carta asserted that ‘To no one will we refuse or delay right or justice’. Justice delayed is justice denied, especially to the victims of crime. Yet our criminal justice system routinely tolerates delay.”
However, the GLC at least reports to parliament and tried to discipline a few of its members. I combed through the report of the Trinidad and Tobago Law Association looking for what its disciplinary committee did and could find nothing at all except stuff about a wine and cheese party, a debate on silk (not necessarily underwear), a sports day and an annual dinner and awards. In most of the Caribbean no lawyer gives evidence in court against another lawyer.
The Law Association is judge, jury and most times stay-of-executioner.
While I commend the Jamaicans for at least forcing their lawyers to submit a report to parliament, they and all the other Caribbean countries need to go a step further. Do not let lawyers be above the law. Take away the power of law associations to police themselves. Let them stick to their wine and cheese, and if drunk enough, maybe they might toss their silk into the night instead of rubbing it into our faces. • Tony Deyal was last seen asking, “Why does the law prohibit sex between lawyers and their clients?”  To prevent clients from being billed twice for essentially the same service.


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