Couple blocked from representing their firm
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, February 10 2012
A HUSBAND and wife legal team has been blocked from representing their own company in a court case, following a ruling of the High Court this week which pronounced on a key question of professional ethics.
Donald Seecharan and wife Fariza, were both representing their company 3G Technologies, in a construction dispute case against Hosein’s Construction, in the High Court when lawyers raised questions over the appropriateness of the pair representing their own company. The couple’s legal practice - Shaama Seecharan and Company — represented 3G Technologies.
Hosein’s Construction was contracted to build a seven-storey building for 3G Technologies on December 8, 2005. The case, which is due to continue on Valentine’s Day (next Tuesday) has seen the parties dispute a total of $7 million in performance bonds and consequential loss. Mrs Seecharan, a director of 3G Technologies, signed a defence and counterclaim as the attorney on record on the case and certified the truth of the defence and counterclaim. She also signed a witness statement as the main witness for 3G Technologies. Her husband Donald Seecharan is also a director of 3G Technologies.
But Justice Vasheist Kokaram has ruled that the couple might fall foul of rules meant to ensure impartiality. He ordered Mrs Seecharan, the instructing attorney in the matter, off the case due to the extent of her status as a witness in the same matter. At the same time, the judge ruled that while questions could be raised in relation to Mr Seecharan, he was not a witness and may not be able to find a replacement in time for when the matter goes to trial next Tuesday Valentine’s Day.
Attorney for Hosein’s Construction, Terrence Bharath, argued that the couple acting for their company constituted a breach of the professional code of ethics governing lawyers.
“The trial itself will be a complex fact-finding exercise. The credibility of the attorney at law will like any other witness be of course open to question and criticism under cross-examination. In that context, one certainly wonders to what extent counsel for the defendant, the partner of the legal firm on record and who will be leading the evidence in chief of his partner in the law firm and a director of the client, can objectively discharge his duties to this court,” Judge Kokaram said.
“I am of the view that Mrs Seecharan ought not to be a witness in this matter and remain on the record,” the judge ruled. “It is objectionable for the instructing attorney at law to give this evidence while remaining an attorney on record for this party. It is a breach of rule 35 Part A of the Code of Ethics.”
Mr Donald Seecharan will, however, be allowed to remain on the case if his wife withdraws or does not testify in the matter, the judge ruled.