PHILIPSBURG–The strike called by pro bono lawyers for timely and improved payment of Government remunerations will continue for as long as their demands have not been met in full, organisers said Tuesday.
The strike was called by attorney-at-law Geert Hatzmann last week Wednesday to force Government into action as it is months behind where it concerns the payment of services to lawyers assigned by Government to crime suspects who cannot afford payment of legal assistance on their own. The action is also for an increase of the fees for pro bono lawyers, which have not been indexed since 1993.
Attorneys Shaira Bommel and Sjamira Roseburg of Sulvaran and Peterson Law Office, who are both also handling a large number of pro bono cases, joined the strike on Monday.
In support of their striking colleagues, it was agreed that all lawyers including those who are not a member of the St. Maarten Bar Association’s Criminal Law Division will not be handling any Government-assigned cases. These will include hearings by an Investigating Judge and the handling of Government-assigned criminal cases at the Court of First Instance. Criminal cases on St. Eustatius and Saba do not fall under the strike.
The strike, which is supported by the St. Maarten Bar Association, will continue until the Minister of Justice commits himself to a reduction of the backlog in payments up until and including the end of July 2016, and commits himself to award indexations as promised.
The action may lead to delays and postponements in legal proceedings, as a number of criminal cases are scheduled to be heard on Wednesday and lawyers will not be present for the hearing of pro bono cases.
In the meantime, attorney Hatzmann received a letter from Government on Friday in which it was stated that he would receive the back pay in his bank account. However, the claims of his two colleagues have not been paid out yet, Hatzmann said Tuesday.
“Because I am in solidarity with my colleagues, as they have been with me, I will continue the strike just like everybody else. Besides, we have not received any response where it concerned the promised increases. In short: the strike will continue in full force,” Hatzmann said.
Strike coordinator and Chairman of the Criminal Law Division Cor Merx confirmed the continuation of the strike. “We weighed the interests of all parties involved very carefully but there is a backlog in payment of lawyers’ fees of three months. The strike will continue until this situation has been remedied,” said Merx.
He said the strike will be expanded by the end of this week in case Government fails to respond to the demands. Lawyers in Curaçao have declared their solidarity with their colleagues in St. Maarten.
Source: Daily Herald
Lawyers’ strike to continue until demands are fully met