Man released for lack of legal representation


~ Pro-bono lawyers continue strike ~

PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance ordered the immediate release of a burglary suspect on Monday due to his not having access to a government pro-bono lawyer since his arrest last week. The pro-bono lawyers went on strike due to a backlog of payments and a promised increase owed by government.

The man was caught red-handed by police last week as part of a burglary investigation. He is believed to be responsible for numerous break-ins that have been taking place in the Philipsburg area, mainly along Boardwalk Boulevard, during the late-night hours over the last two weeks. The judge said he only sees the law, which is that any suspect has a right to legal representation.
The outstanding fees date back to January and the Ministry of Justice has not been responding to the lawyers’ requests for settlement. Chairman of the Section of Criminal Lawyers in St. Maarten Cor Merx informed The Daily Herald on Tuesday that the ministry had asked to sit with two lawyers to discuss the plight of the group.
“The lawyers met with two officials from the Ministry of Justice and were told that there is a financial issue. We are willing to take 75 per cent and the balance at a later time, but what we will not accept is the ministry not keeping to their word,” stated Merx.
Former Prime Minister William Marlin and former Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo sat with the lawyers last year and agreed to an increase, according to Merx.
“The ministry officials told them on Tuesday that they will not honour the increase because the promise made by the former ministers was a political decision. This is absurd. How can ministers make an agreement and the following year, it’s being brushed off as political decision? What does that mean? We are continuing our strike,” stated Merx.
This newspaper contacted Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever for comment and he said, “This afternoon I met with some of the lawyers that provide pro-bono services in order to understand the entire situation, given the fact that there have been numerous strikes over the last two years without a sustainable solution. Apparently previous discussions and financial decisions were made and never finalised with following the correct legislative trajectory or budgetary support.”
He was also asked whether there would be an immediate solution and whether there is a timeline.
“We are both working diligently on both ends to resolve this as soon as possible. In the interim, I would prefer to see justice prevail in all cases,” he replied.
In the meantime, the strike continues to affect cases where pro-bono lawyers are needed.


Source: The Daily Herald


  1. The confusion is not the meaning of pro bono. The confusion is calling those lawyers “pro bono lawyers” suggesting they work for free. They don’t and they never did. So whoever made this qualification is wrong. They get a small fixed fee for their work. But the fee is not being paid so they strike and refuse to take new cases. Rightfully so. Sint Maarten is not North America. I know it is hard to understand for Americans that things are different here, especially where it concerns the application of the law, but law firms on Sint Maarten can not afford to work pro bono. Actually, pro bono does not really exist anywhere in the world. The lack of fees on a pro bono case will always be compensated somehow by another case. Bills need to be paid. Even in North America.

  2. I am confused. Pro bono publico (English: for the public good; usually shortened to pro bono) is a Latin phrase for professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike traditional volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
    There are an inordinate amount of legal offices and lawyers on St Maarten considering the population (unfortunately there is also an inordinate amount of crime). Normally, at least in North America, legal offices require their lawyers to perform a certain percentage of their work ‘pro bono’. If pro bono work is volunteered by members of the legal community then why are St Maarten ‘Pro Bono’ lawyers on strike demanding payment for something that is normally voluntary?
    On the other hand – Public defender (a lawyer usually holding public office whose duty is to defend accused persons unable to pay for legal assistance)
    As a North American I am honestly quite confused and often disappointed by the application of Dutch law in St Maarten. Although it seems to work quite well in Holland where there is very high regard for rule of law – it is often confusing and quite disappointing the way it is applied here in St Maarten where most lawyers and judges are Dutch or at least Dutch trained. Just saying! I would say that it needs as much cleaning up as the law enforcement system.