PHILIPSBURG–The pro-bono lawyers who have been on strike since May 18 due to non-payment of fees due to them have decided to continue their strike, Chairman of the St. Maarten’s Bar Association’s Section of Criminal Lawyers Cor Merx said Monday. The lawyers’ action has now entered its sixth week.
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 up till now not been responding to the lawyers’ requests for settlement.
Merx said that the striking lawyers held a meeting Monday afternoon, during which they had carefully weighed the interests of Country St. Maarten and of crime suspects against their own interests.
“Considering that the lawyers are waiting for payment for a disproportionately long period it was decided that the lawyers are to continue their action,” said Merx.
Merx said the lawyers realise that their strike is causing problems at the Court of First Instance and the Joint Court of Justice as court hearings have to be postponed until a later date. “But the pro-bono lawyers have not received any payment for six months already. Seen in this light, our interests have to prevail,” he said.
According to Merx, the continuation of the strike may cause a “crisis” in the appointment of pro-bono lawyers in new cases. As per July 1, a new duty roster must be drafted for these cases, but up to date not one single lawyer has made himself or herself available for duties of this nature, Merx said.
He said he would be making an appointment with Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever to find a solution, “because we also want to move forward.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/77744-pro-bono-lawyers-continue-their-strike