Published On: Mon, May 28th, 2018

Strike pro bono attorneys continues

marching attorneys - MGP

PHILIPSBURG – Pro bono lawyers continue their strike that began eleven days ago on Tuesday. The attorneys have not been paid by the government since January. Furthermore, the government refuses to pay higher tariffs.

The attorneys went on strike for the first time in September 2016. They demanded higher tariffs for pro bono work – 1,800 instead of 900 guilders. Such tariffs were at the time already in place in Curacao.

In 2017, there was another strike, also about outstanding payments and about the tariff structure.

This time around it is no different, be it that the current Minister of Justice, Cornelius de Weever, has ordered attorneys not to charge the higher tariff, even though there was an agreement in 2016 about the higher price with then Minister of Justice Edson Irindongo.

cor-merx-avatar“Now the Minister of justice says that the new tariffs have to be regulated by law and that this could take some time,” says Cor Merx, chairman of the section criminal lawyers of the Bar association.

The strike means that all court cases for Wednesday that involve pro bono attorneys, will have to be postponed.

Caroline Giesen, the judge for press relations at the courthouse, told stmaartennews.com that she does not know which cases this concerns. “I cannot deduce from the docket or from the attorney whether it is  a case with a pro bono lawyer,” she said in a brief email.

According to Merx, the Common Court of justice has already been informed that there is no point coming to St. Maarten next week, because the attorneys expect to be still on strike.

With the strike of the pro bono attorneys, the whole judicial system has come to a virtual standstill. “They are not arresting anybody anymore at the moment,” Merx observed.

Suspects have the right to see an attorney before their first interrogation at the police station. The pro bono attorneys have also suspended their on-call duties, so anybody who does get arrested and is entitled to a pro bono lawyer will not get any help as long as the strike continues.


Photo caption: Attorneys on strike in 2017, marching on A.T. Illidge Road to the offices of then Minister of Justice, Kirindongo. Photo by Milton Pieters.

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