Lawyers’ strike continues to affect criminal cases

PHILIPSBURG–It was a quiet day in the Court of First Instance chamber Wednesday when the absence of defence lawyers next to suspects was evident. Pro-bono lawyers have been on strike since Friday, May 18, due to non-payment of fees due to them from the Government of St. Maarten.

The judge who handled the criminal court informed suspects during every case that the court had no choice but to reschedule their court hearings due to their lawyers’ absence.
Pro-bono lawyers give criminal suspects who cannot afford a lawyer free-of-charge legal assistance during the handling of their cases. The bill is paid by Government. The outstanding fees date back to January and the Ministry of Justice has not been responding to the lawyers’ requests for settlement.

One of the lawyers on strike, Sjamira Roseburg of Sulvaran and Peterson Law Office, confirmed that the strike will continue until Government has paid out all fees due to them. “We will continue our strike for as long as we do not receive our payments. This [late payment of invoices – Ed.] needs to stop,” she said.

The strike, organised under the auspices of the Criminal Defence Section of the St. Maarten Bar Association, affected some five cases on Wednesday.

Source: The Daily Herald