31 December, 2009


Why we should all move our money to indigenous banks.  I was interested to read recently about the grassroots movement that is spreading across the USA to abandon the major banks and for all customers to move their accounts to community banks.  In our islands that would translate to “indigenous” banks. 
Here is the video that started what I expect will, in the coming months, be a groundswell of change in banking practices around the world:

It is not just the conviction that many of us have that our small indigenous banks are safer than the major international banks.  There are small people with immediate, personal reasons for moving.  Here, as an example, is Stephanie Frost, one irate Bank of America customer, explaining what she is doing:

To cite Camden R Fine, our community or indigenous banks take time to get to know their customers. They make loans to the small businesses in the community that the larger banks won’t touch.  Their continued success depends on building and maintaining good relationships with their customers.  Indigenous bankers are accountable.  They have to be.  Often they are dealing with their neighbours, the parents of their children’s friends, the people they see every day during their personal and professional lives.  They rely on common-sense practices, honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency. 
The same cannot be said of the management of the Banks of America, Citigroups, Wells Fargos, et al.

26 December, 2009


We still have not been told why the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is suggesting that the National Bank of Anguilla needs to merge with the Caribbean Commercial Bank.  In frustration at the lack of published information I have been doing a little digging.  Someone suggested I have a look at C Hoare & Co.  Hoare’s, like the National Bank, is a small bank.  Neither deals in derivatives.  Both provide private banking, financial planning and investment services that include loans, mortgages, savings accounts and investment advisory services. 
Hoare’s 2008/2009 accounts have been published.  So have NBA's accounts.  Hoare’s has just ₤1 billion in assets.  NBA has just EC$1 billion in assets.  The international recession started in December 2007, and hit both banks simultaneously.  Hoare’s profits show a decrease from 2007 to 2008.  Profits went down from ₤17 million the previous year to ₤15 million.  NBA’s went down from EC$19 million to EC$17 million.  The ratio of fall in profits is astonishingly similar.
Hoare’s was founded in 1672, some 20 years before the Bank of England (founded 1694).  Hoare’s is the oldest private bank in the UK.  It is considered a very successful bank.  Yet, it is tiny by comparison with other British banks.  It has survived one financial crisis after another, while the banking behemoths around the world were failing. 
It does not matter how small a local bank is.  All that matters is how carefully it is managed.  If it is not carefully managed it does not matter how big it is, it will still fail.
So long as any small local bank is taking two-thirds of the profits each year and putting them into reserves, it will do well.
This assumes that it is not making too many dodgy loans.
Related posts:

25 December, 2009


The big question in the tourism industry of Anguilla today is how long can Cap Juluca afford to carry the golf course?  Even Adam Aron’s backers will run out of money and patience one day.  You work out the math.  The figures were widely circulated a year ago when Flag Luxury Resorts was threatening to shut down the course.  It was said to cost US$6,000 per day just to water the grass.  That is US$180,000 per month.  There are other costs besides the water.  Another figure widely circulated was that Flag lost US$3.9 million on the course in the last year of operations.  That is US$300,000 per month.  And the story in circulation is that Cap Juluca has promised to keep the course open for up to six months.  Keeping that promise would cost them between US$1 and US$2 million in operating costs.  At US$225 per round, between 44 and 88, say 66, golfers per day will have to be found just to break even.  Given the uncertainties, it is not likely that many golfers are going to visit Anguilla for the purpose of playing golf.  Certainly, few will bear the burden of bringing their clubs with them.  Business will have to depend on the occasional drop-in.  The course will be lucky to attract even 10% of the numbers required to break even. 
It will have become obvious to Cap Juluca before the end of January that good money is only being poured after bad.
I don’t think Cap Juluca is in the charity business.
The well is never bottomless. 
We are reminded that the lunch is never free. 
And, Santa Claus does not exist.
I would not be so pessimistic if I thought this was anything other than a very expensive campaign contribution.
Related posts:

19 December, 2009


On 9 December 2009, International Anti-Corruption Day was celebrated all around the world.  I apologise for forgetting to make a big deal of it on this blog.  It is not that I was not aware of the significance of the date.  It is just that on that day I was doing a job of work for the Governor General of St Kitts.  So, let us look back now, before the month slips by completely, and consider once again where we are in combating corruption in public life in Anguilla
Our first line of defence is the Criminal Code.  We do not have common law offences in Anguilla any longer.  All crimes have been codified.  If a crime used to exist at common law, as bribery did, if it has not been retained in the Code, it has effectively been abolished.  Either an offence is found in the Code or some other statute or it does not exist.  The word ‘bribe’ is not mentioned anywhere in the Act, or in any other Act for that matter.  Section 98 of the Criminal Code creates a new statutory offence of ‘official corruption’.  I won’t recite the whole boring, long section.  Suffice it to say that the most important of the Anguillian bribery offences is to be found at paragraph (a).  This reads
Official corruption
98. A person commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for 3 years, if he—
(a) being employed in the public service and being charged with the performance of any duty by virtue of such employment, corruptly solicits, receives or obtains, or agrees or attempts to receive or retain, any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything already done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of the duties of his office, or to be afterwards done or omitted to be done; or . . .
What we take away from this reading is that bribery is an offence only when committed by a civil servant.  The phrase ‘employed in the public service’ refers only to civil servants.  Ministers of government and board members and employees of statutory corporations such as the Health Authority of Anguilla, the electricity company ANGLEC, or the Social Security Board are not considered in law to be public servants.  The consequence is that bribery is not an offence in Anguilla when committed by a politician or a member of a statutory board.  So, for example, a member of the Board of ANGLEC could, I am not suggesting by any means that any of them does, set up bribery book and with impunity offer to fast-track electricity connections to the highest bidders.  He will be perfectly safe in the criminal law to offer to do public work in exchange for a private bribe.  He will not be committing any criminal offence whatsoever.  Neither would, for example, an employee of the Board.  This defect in our law is a shame and an outrage.  We need a proper, comprehensive offence of bribery in the law of Anguilla that applies to all persons appointed to serve the public in whatever capacity. [I was wrong. See the first comment.]
Our second and last line of defence is the Public Service Integrity Board Act.  This law enables the Governor, whenever he thinks it fit, to submit a case to the Public Service Integrity Board where he suspects that there might be a conflict of interest.  The Board only deals with conflicts of interest, not with integrity in public office as such is understood by all of us.  A conflict of interest, you might think, is a very tiny, insignificant, almost irrelevant aspect of the whole area of integrity.  The term conflict of interest is defined in the Act. 
“conflict of interest” means a direct or indirect interest of a public officer in a commercial undertaking or direct or indirect involvement of a public officer in private work if such interest or work clashes or is incompatible with his official duties, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, any interest or work which—
(a) impairs or is likely to impair an officer’s efficiency;
(b) brings or is likely to bring the Government, the public service or the officer into disrepute;
(c) impinges or is likely to impinge on his official work or responsibilities;
(d) makes or is likely to make him unavailable for responsible official duties outside normal working hours; or
(e) puts him, or gives the appearance of putting him, or is likely to put him, or give the appearance of putting him, in a position where he is able to use his official position for private gain.
The first thing we observe with this Act is that it is limited to civil servants’ conflicts of interest.  No offence is committed when our Chief Minister serves, as he has for nearly two decades, as a member of our cabinet and executive council and at the same time as a Board Member and Chairman of a commercial bank in Anguilla.  How do you think an Englishman or a US citizen would react if he were to learn that PM Brown or President Obama was the chairman of the Board of Barclays Bank or Citibank at the same time as he served as the head of the executive branch of government?  And, why should we in Anguilla demand any lower standards of our heads of government?  In my humble opinion, it is nothing short of an outrage against public morality that this scandalous void in our law has been allowed to continue.  The law ought to be changed to permit investigations into allegations of conflicts of interest by all persons serving the public in any capacity.
The second thing we notice about this Act is that the Board only functions where the Governor refers a matter to it.  The Board has no power to deal with complaints made to it directly by private citizens.  The Board cannot take up an investigation into any matter of conflicts of interest or corruption in the public service that comes to its attention.  Any attempt to do so will be met by the standard, “We are dealing in-house with that matter.  Do not fret yourselves with it.”  There ought to be a law which authorises an independent body to investigate and report on any allegation of conflict of interest by any person serving the public interest.
This toothless bulldog of a law has contributed in no small way, in my opinion, to the lowering of standards in public life in Anguilla.  It serves only as a demonstration to the children of this country that you can do whatever you want to further your own personal interests while claiming to serve public ones.  I once served on this Board for four years.  At first I was filled with enthusiasm.  I very shortly became disillusioned by the ineffectiveness and pointlessness of it all.  I wonder sometimes how my successor thinks about his role.
Columnist Martin George had a point a few months ago when he demanded that the Integrity Act of Trinidad and Tobago be scrapped.  It would be a first and necessary step in our islands in really dealing with corruption.  In his column in the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper on 7 June 2009 he argued that the real point of the law should be to prevent corruption in public life, not to enforce integrity.  We have no business fudging and confusing corruption with integrity.  These laws of ours, whether in Trinidad and Tobago or in Anguilla, have proven very ineffective in reducing corruption in public life.  That should be the real objective of this type of legislation.
I agree with Martin George.  What we all need is an effective Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act.  Neither of us has that yet.
Related Posts:

17 December, 2009

Election bribes

Is it an offence for a political party to fly in voters from the USA, Europe and the Caribbean to vote in Anguilla’s upcoming elections?  A lawyer’s answer might be that it is not an offence if such generosity is not caught by section 73 of the Elections Act.  You can read the section for yourself, and be the judge.  The relevant part of section 73 reads:
73. (1) The following persons are guilty of bribery within the meaning of this Act
(a) every person who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives, lends, or agrees to give or lend, or offers, promises, or promises to procure or to endeavour to procure any money or valuable consideration to or for any voter, or to or for any person on behalf of any voter, or to or for any other person in order lo induce any voter to vote or refrain from voting, or corruptly does any of those acts on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting at any election;
(b) every person who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives or procures, or agrees to give or to procure, or offers, promises, or promises to procure or to endeavour to procure, any office, place or employment to or for any voter, or to or for any person on behalf of any voter, or to or for any other person in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting, or corruptly does any of those acts on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting at any election; . . .
Paragraphs (a) and (b) set out the two most important bribery offences for the purpose of elections.  There are several other more specialised forms of bribery, but we need not look at them here.  The two main offences under section 73 are the paying or promising to pay any money or other valuable consideration to any person to induce any person to vote for a particular candidate, or to refrain from voting for any particular candidate.  That would clearly include a gift of cash, or a fridge, or a TV set.  Any person who is offered any cash or other gift to secure his or her vote should make a report to a senior police officer, and to his candidate.  Any person who knows of any bribe that has been given to any other person to induce them to vote a particular way, has a legal duty to report that situation to a senior police officer. 
This corrupt transaction happens routinely in every Anguillian general election.  We all wink knowingly at each other and discuss the various truck loads of building material and household equipment that is alleged to be supplied by some candidates in order to induce their constituents to vote for them on election day.  This is bribery, and it should be reported to the police and to your candidate when you have evidence of it happening.
A gift of an airfare is no different to the gift of a fridge.  We all know of cases where it has been alleged that certain politicians pay the airfare for their supporters living in other countries to come home for a holiday at election time and to vote for them.  This paying of airfare is bribery under section 73 of the Act, as it amounts to the prohibited “any other valuable consideration” given in order to induce the voter to vote a certain way. 
Where there is any evidence that airfares have been paid by a political party for persons to return to Anguilla to vote, it should be reported to a senior police officer.  Report it as well to your candidate, so that he or she can not only begin to prepare an election petition in case the election is stolen, but also for the purpose of getting on the back of the police to ensure that they do an investigation and bring any necessary prosecution.
            Paragraph (b) deals with the bribe of offering to get a job, or place of employment, for any voter in order to induce the voter to vote or to refrain from voting in a particular way.  Any campaigner who makes such a promise, or pays such a bribe on behalf of the candidate, makes the candidate liable if the court is satisfied that the candidate knew about it. 
If you have information of any of these offences being committed, report it to a senior police officer and to your candidate.  The penalty for bribery is a fine of $19,200.00 or a term of imprisonment of 6 months.  Additionally, any person convicted of bribery is disqualified from being registered as a voter or as a candidate for elections for a period of 7 years.  If a candidate is convicted for bribery after he has been elected, he loses his seat and cannot stand in elections again for 7 years.

14 December, 2009


Is Anguilla turning into Cozumel without the water skis?  Besides the old canard of the value of our people, Anguilla’s principal resource is its famed beaches.  We will never be a Singapore or a Switzerland.  Those countries were truly without any resources save for their strategic locations.  They had something else to capitalize on, and to make their people rich and comfortable.  They practised a strict attention not only to laws but to rules and standards.  That is something that our spoiled and semi-literate Anguillian children have not attained in this generation.  So, given the special significance of our beaches in providing employment and attracting investment, we would expect that the authorities would do their utmost to attend to their safeguarding.  Anguilla’s beaches should be sacrosanct, dedicated to the public use, and with all private structures forbidden to be built on them.  This has actually been our government’s claim for decades.  So, it is important to express outrage when the rules are broken by one of us. 

Vehicles are not permitted to be driven on the beach.  If it is not a law, then it is certainly a well-publicised rule.  This rule is being broken more and more, particularly by locals.  Sandy Ground and Rendezvous Beaches are becoming more and more like a racetrack.  Visitors have the rule that it is illegal to drive a vehicle on the beach pummeled into them by all the tourist literature.  Can we locals not follow the same simple rule?

So, you can imagine my disgust and dismay when I saw this fellow streaking by in some sport vehicle, at full speed, and making a racket of noise, on Meads Bay Beach

It seems clear to me that no employee of one of our major new resorts would take it on his own to joy ride on the public beach like this.  One has to assume that he had been sent out by his supervisor to test fly the vehicle.  Maybe they are going to enter it in Le Mans next?

Of course, it may have been part of a conspiracy.  Perhaps he had been instructed to keep the beach clear of tourists between Viceroy Hotel and Frangipani Hotel?  Could it be that he was actually on duty, and not sloping off as I at first suspected?  No, I decided, too far-fetched.

I guess it was just sheer Anguillian slackness, and a few old tourists on the beach did not count.  Besides, it serves them right.  Who told them to come and pollute our beach with their sad presence?

At last, even the best of things must come to an end, and one must return to boring work.

In my humble opinion, this fellow in question should be investigated by the police.  If he has committed an offence, he should be prosecuted.  If not for what he did, at least pour encourager les autres.  He should next be fired from his job.  He should be given a job letter that makes him permanently unemployable in any part of the tourism sector.  Following that, management at Viceroy Hotel should call all construction staff to a meeting, and advise them that anyone joy riding on the beach will be summarily dismissed.  It is not only illegal, it brings the establishment into disrepute.  Then, every resort in Anguilla ought to be requested by the Tourism Department to do the same thing.
Does no one around here have any standards?

13 December, 2009


Three is a good age. At three, we were talking quite well. We were even making sense to other people. At three, we were well into cutting our teeth. We were potty trained. We were into board books, and we loved the pictures. At that age, we could even put on our own clothes without help.
All in all, a third birthday is a triumph of sorts.

12 December, 2009


 The battle of the press releases?  The controversy highlighted in my post of yesterday continues in the press and on the airwaves.  The Minister of Finance of Anguilla was on Radio Anguilla at 9:00 pm and again at 10:00 pm last night attempting to explain away his embarrassment.  What appears to be indisputable is that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has lent the Government of Anguilla the princely sum of EC$12 million.  That should be just sufficient to restore the recent cuts made to public servants salaries, and to pay a double salary in time for Christmas.  The doubt lies in the circumstances in which the loan was made. 
According to the GoA press release, the government of Anguilla has never approached the government of Dominica for a loan or gift at any time.  That blanket denial would include a refutation that the GoA ever asked the GoD to extend some of its credit with the ECCB to Anguilla.  Our position is that the PM of Dominica has made an unfortunate claim.  Chief Minister Osbourne Fleming has contacted the Governor of the Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner, and requested that he ask PM Skerrit to retract his statement.  Here is the Anguilla press release in full

Dominica has issued a press release attempting to clear up any misunderstanding over what PM Skerrit said.  It has explained that Dominica has not borrowed any funds from the ECCB for the past 5 years.  Dominica therefore has a credit with the ECCB to the tune of EC$89 million.  Anguilla, by contrast, had utilized all of its credit with the ECCB and could not borrow any more.  Dominica, therefore, last week gave Anguilla $12 million worth of Dominica’s credit.  The Dominica Minister of Finance, presumable at the request of the Anguilla Minister of Finance, had to give his consent in writing to this transaction.  So, the PM was not incorrect in stating that Dominica had helped its sister island of Anguilla.  He was merely speaking off the cuff, and may have used the wrong technical jargon.
Here is part of the Dominica press release:

Now, it will be obvious to a child that these two press releases cannot both be correct.  Either Anguilla went cap in hand to Dominica to extend some of its credit to Anguilla, or that is a complete falsehood. 
It will be interesting to see who has to apologise to whom.

11 December, 2009


Just last week Dominica gave $12 million to Anguilla?  It is general elections time in the Commonwealth of Dominica.  So, you cannot believe everything you read in the Dominica newspapers at this time.  What I read with a degree of astonishment and disbelief in the Dominica News Online was that Dominica, one of the poorest countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean, has just “given” Anguilla $12 million out of its hard-earned savings and out of the goodness of Prime Minister Roosevelt’s Skerrit’s heart.  Dominica in 2006 is reported to have had a GDP per capita of $4,758, while Anguilla’s was $8,310.00.  You would not easily have concluded that Anguilla could be helped financially by Dominica.
These reverse alms from the poor man to the rich man would be an outrage against common decency, if the story were true.  The people of Dominica need schools, hospitals, roads, and libraries.  Would the outgoing Dominica government, struggling to be re-elected, take its hard-earned savings and loan them to Anguilla, with a significantly higher per capita GDP?  The Chief Minister not long ago was boasting that he was the highest paid head of government in the OECS.  Why would poor little Dominica do such a thing for Anguilla?  Would their government, going into a general election, draw down funds from the ECCB, that it could well use for the development of Dominica, to bail out the government of Anguilla?  I cannot readily believe the story to be true.
PM Skerrit jokingly says that he “gave” the $12 million to Anguilla.  He must be very confident of his support by the electorate in Dominica to have made such an irresponsible assertion.  We have to assume that he is conspiring with the government of Anguilla to hide from the Central Bank the fact that he is merely loaning, not giving, the money to Anguilla, a country that has exceeded its borrowing powers, and is unable itself to make this borrowing.  It is amazing that he can be so confident that the people of Dominica will really be happy about such a state of affairs.
Yet, you can listen to an audio recording of PM Skerrit making just that claim right here:

As usual, it was a pleasure to tune in to Haydn Hughes’ call-in radio programme On the Spot last night, which dealt with this news.  Independent candidate Sutcliff Hodge was one of his guests.  Their discussion was pretty thorough, but I thought they missed raising a couple of important points.
If this was a loan, was it authorized by a Resolution of the Anguilla House of Assembly, as provided for in the Financial Administration and Audit Act?  Why is this Resolution important?  Because this is the mechanism designed by law to ensure transparency in public borrowing.  This is how the people consent to government borrowing money that we, the people, will have to repay one day.  The government of Anguilla is prohibited by law from borrowing any money that has not been authorized by the House of Assembly.  This is what section 38 says:
Authorisation of debt
38. No money shall be raised on the credit of the Government except under the authority of this or another Act of the Legislature or of a resolution of the House of Assembly.
If this loan was not authorized by law or by a Resolution, is it not an illegal loan?  If it is illegal, who committed the offence?  Will there be any repercussions?  Will the auditor take it up for comment within the next five or six years, as is par for the course up to now.  And, if and when he does, will it not then be too late to make anything of it, as is usual, since by the time the audit report is published another administration will be in office?
I always had my suspicions that the famous British contingent liability was a figment of some bureaucrat’s fevered imagination.  Is this scorning by Anguilla of the long breached guidelines, put in place precisely to safeguard Britain’s contingent liability, further evidence of the spurious nature of this alleged liability?  Or, is it just evidence of hubris on the part of our Minister of Finance?  Does he believe that he has become all-powerful, and can do as he wishes with the public purse?
For what purpose would the money be borrowed?  The standard answer is to meet government’s commitments, of course!  Elections in Anguilla are around the corner.  Could the thinking be that a Christmas bonus must be paid, despite the economic downturn, if the public servants are to be kept mollified in order to ensure their support when the day for voting comes?  Never mind the piling up of public debt upon debt, that will be for someone else to sort out, after the general elections.
If true, the further fear must be that this unauthorized borrowing may just be the tip of the iceberg.  Are there other secret borrowings and commitments that our out-going government has obligated our new administration to settle in the new year?
May I wish everyone a Super Solstice!

10 December, 2009

The job

On Becoming a Judge – By Don Mitchell CBE QC, former secretary of the OECS Bar Association, 1989-1999
When your heart gives out, and you die ten times on the operating table, it is usually a good sign that it is time to retire from the practice of law.  That happened to me. 
I can still remember Dr Terry Isaacs, my wife’s gynaecologist, settling me onto his examination couch with the words, “Well, Don, I’ll do my best, but you are the wrong gender, and I will be examining the wrong end.”  He was the only doctor I knew in St Vincent at the time. 
He listened hard on his stethoscope for a few minutes, then said, “Don, you have the heart rate of a teenage Somali long-distance runner.  That would be very good if you were a teenage Somali long-distance runner. But, since you are a sedentary middle aged West Indian lawyer, I think you should go to see a specialist.”  With that, he dispatched me to be examined by Jeff Massay in Barbados.
Jeff is a brilliant surgeon, and he undoubtedly saved my life.  I remember him intently reading the notes his nurse had made, then looking up and saying, “Your heart is beating only 45 times per minute.”
“Is that good or bad”, I asked.  He shook his head, “Lawyers and lizards, we always knew both of you required very little oxygen.”
After that he put me on the table in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and inserted my pacemaker.  He had to put it on the right hand side of my chest.  He said as he did so, “Not to worry, Don, usually with lawyers we find no heart at all.  At least you have one, even if it is on the wrong side.”
That is when I died and retired from law and went to heaven as a judge in St Vincent.
Years later, Chief Justice Dennis Bryon told me of the shock he received when he got his first pay cheque as a judge in Antigua.  His two sons’ school fees in Barbados were more than the total amount of the judge’s pay cheque.  He had to bring them back home immediately.  My salary cheque for my first month did not cover Maggie and my wine bill at Gonsalves Liquors in Kingstown.
In fact, the salary cheque was only a few hundred dollars more than I used to pay one of my secretaries before I closed my practice.  I must say conditions improved a couple of years later when the Prime Ministers agreed to double our salaries.  I trust it has been doubled again.  They cannot continue to rely on a supply of half-dead lawyers being available to fill the bench of the Easter Caribbean Supreme Court.
After two and a half years in St Vincent, with spells in Grenada, St Lucia and Dominica, the Chief Justice moved me to Antigua.  There I was to spend another two and a half years, with spells in Nevis, St Kitts, Montserrat, Anguilla and Tortola.  The amount of work was overwhelming.  I remember asking the Chief Justice why he kept sending me to places where there was so much work to do.  His only response was, “Don we are both Kittitians.  Kittitians really know how to cut cane.”  Which, I think, was his way of telling me not to be a wimp, but to soldier on.
I think I did well to survive doing the job for five years.  I was ready to go after four.  But, I hung on for five, because I had been told by head office in St Lucia that five years would ensure I got a pension, or at the very least a gratuity.  Four years’ service would not count.  Five years would be necessary for there to be a little reward at the end of the day. 
After five years on the bench, I was completely exhausted.  I was dropping things and forgetting things.  I went to see the premier psychiatrist in Antigua, Dr James King.  I told him that I was very worried, as I was in the terminal stages of Alzheimers.  He asked me why I was seeing him if I already knew what my problem was.  I explained that I needed a second opinion.
He took pity on me and gave me an examination.  I had to answer a lot of questions and do various memory tricks.  At the end of it, he explained to me that I was not suffering from Alzheimers.  I was, he said, an aging obsessive-compulsive.  Apparently, when you are a young obsessive-compulsive that is not such a bad thing.  As Dr King explained, he would much rather have an obsessive-compulsive lawyer worrying over his clients’ legal problem than have one who laughed and relaxed all the time while mailing out his bills.
The problem with being an aging obsessive-compulsive is that your body cannot answer to all the demands it was able to handle in younger years.  The body begins to rebel when you decide to do two trials a day, and one hundred Chamber matters on Friday morning.  Since it takes two days to prepare for one day of Chamber matters, that means staying up to all hours of the night reading files and making notes about their contents.  One did that in between writing the judgments. 
We were told we had to write our judgments within three months of the end of the case.  That was too long a period.  Every time I waited three months, it was a disaster.  I had to read every file and every note all over again.  It was like I had never seen the witnesses nor heard the evidence.  I found I had to write every judgment within a day or two of the end of the trial, since I immediately forgot that the trial had ever taken place, far less what had been said in it.  Dr King explained it was the natural result of an aging obsessive-compulsive believing that he could continue to bite off more than he could chew.
The doctor recommended that I take a long holiday.  What did he mean by a long holiday?  Six months, he suggested.  Needless to say, being an obsessive-compulsive, I applied for a year off.  To my astonishment, the Judicial and Legal Services Commission granted it.  They must really have been glad to see my back.  So, we packed up the dogs and possessions, gave up the house in Antigua, and flew back to Anguilla.
After six months resting, gardening, reacquainting myself with family and friends, I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  You can imagine what I did next.  I compulsively wrote to the acting Chief Justice, Adrian Saunders, submitting my resignation.  I had had enough.  There was no way I was going back to that heavy burden of obsessively trying cases and worrying about justice in Antigua and Barbuda.
It would have been nice if there had been the promised gratuity at the end of it.  Turns out, you have to work for at least ten years to expect to get anything under the Pensions Act of Anguilla.  I did not fight it.  There was no client to pay my fees for going to court.  I compulsively forgot about pension. 
Since then, I have been obsessively enjoying myself teaching CAPE law three half-days a week in the High School in Anguilla.  I have 18 students this year.  I fill in the spare time providing a free legal aid clinic three half-days a week out of the Welfare Department. 
I call it practising stress-free law.
[I wrote this article for the OECS Bar Association 20th anniversary commemorative magazine published earlier this month.  My apologies to those who have heard the jokes before.]

09 December, 2009


Most of the past 14 days I have spent out of Anguilla.

I am out of touch with the latest developments in the realms of integrity, transparency and accountability in the public life of Anguilla.

So, tell me, is anything happening with the Bar's reaction to the proposal to appoint the retiring Commissioner of Police to fill the vacant post of Magistrate?

Has the Minister of Finance yet announced how much money and land was given to the persons in George Hill who were compensated for the airport extension affecting their properties, as he has long promised to do?

Has government borrowed the $20 million the British said we could do on certain conditions?

Have the local banks continued their moratorium on selling properties that had been put up as securities for loans that have now gone into default as a result of the massive lay offs that have occurred?

I return tomorrow morning, LIAT cooperating.

Email me your updates and inquiries at idmitch@anguillanet.com


06 December, 2009


It is not every day I get to say something positive about lawyers. So here goes.

      On Friday night, I had the pleasure of introducing Courtney Abel of the Anguilla Bar to the judges and lawyers of the Eastern Caribbean attending the 20th anniversary dinner of the OECS Bar Association at Coco Resort in St Lucia. This is what I said.
      Courtney Abel was the President of the OECS Bar Association from 2004 to 2006. His presidency was noted for his ceaseless efforts to convert the Association from a well-meaning talk-shop into a professional body, with the necessary institutional capacity that would enable it to perform the functions required of a modern, professional Bar Association in a globalised economy.
      He lobbied continuously throughout his term to persuade us to move away from being an essentially amateurish, non-self-regulating association to a professional body, regulated by statute on terms acceptable to us.
      To that end, he proposed that it be compulsory that:
  • All lawyers' accounts be audited annually;
  • We all be required to attend a programme of continuing legal education;
  • Professional indemnity insurance be obtained by every attorney;
  • We adhere to a strict Code of Ethics;
  • Every practising attorney pay local and regional Bar Association dues;
  • We contribute to a pension plan to provide for us in retirement; and
  • All attorneys contribute to the endowment of a Benevolent Plan for the relief of indigent lawyers and their families.
      On 15 September 2006, at a Special Meeting of the members held in Tortola, the Constituent Members of the Association voted unanimously to adopt voluntarily the above provisions, pending their introduction by a Legal Professional Act. That the legislatures of most of our nine member states and territories of the OECS have not yet introduced and passed the necessary legislation is only to be regretted.

02 December, 2009


Is it a sign of the times?  Just across the street from the Anguilla House of Assembly is Her Majesty’s Prison.  Strategically located, you might think.  Well, so it is.  The Ministers of Government and Permanent Secretaries pass by HM Prison every day.  And, every day, they walk and drive alongside a sign that is posted outside the prison.  Is it only me that finds it an odd sign?
“Restricted area.  No trespassing without authorization”.  Restricted area, I can understand.  What I cannot understand is how anybody can give me authorisation to trespass.  If I get permission to enter a restricted area, then, common sense alone tells me that I am not trespassing.  What the designer of this sign appears to have done is to conflate the three well-known phrases, “Restricted area”, “No trespassing”, and “No admittance without authorization”.  Here it is in close-up for you to appreciate it in all its glory.
While we are on the subject of illiterate public administration signs, have you noticed the one at Sandy Ground?  Sandy Ground is a port of entry, where most of the island’s cargo is landed at the jetty and stored in the Customs House.  The Customs House is home to Her Majesty’s Customs.  The sign must have been up for some years, as it is battered and faded.
During all that time, innumerable government officers have driven past the sign.  They must have seen it, and noticed that something was wrong.  Did they not recognise the error?  Did they not realise that the error made HM Customs into something of a laughing stock?  Here is a close-up for your better appreciation.
“HMS Customs”?  We know that the prefix “HMS” is associated with the sea.  And, so it should be.  The letters stand for Her Majesty’s Ship.  They are an indication that a ship in question belongs to the British Navy.  The letters “HMS” are not an acceptable enlargement of, far less an improvement on, the initials “HM”. 
The persons responsible for ordering the production of these signs ought to be ashamed of themselves.
And, what about you, Ron?  Just because some government officer gives you an illiterate draft, does not mean that you have to produce it just as it appears.  Surely, as a professional, it is not below your dignity to call up the government Department boss and ask him or her if he or she really wants to appear to be a fool.  You might point out that the risk is that people will be afraid to bring you their sign-work for fear that you are going to be the originator of illiterate signage.  For your own protection you need to make that call.
You may say it is a little thing.  I insist it is not.  It is a sign that we live in a post-literate society.  We are administered by semi-literates, er, the educationally challenged.  We make a laughing stock of ourselves by allowing such persons to put pen to paper in the public service.
Do we need a new Department of government literacy? 
Is that not what the school system is supposed to be?