Published On: Fri, Apr 2nd, 2021

Attorneys have COVID-related concerns about scheduling meetings

~ Court schedules hearings appeal cases in April despite concerns of attorneys ~

PHILIPSBURG — Attorneys representing their clients in appeal cases are concerned about hearings the appeals court has scheduled on nine different days in April after the Common Court of Justice refused to honor a request to postpone these hearings for COVID-related reasons. The court has announced that it will not postpone the hearings. The attorneys have announced that they will be considering ways to further address their concerns to the court.

On behalf of the criminal defense lawyers in St. Maarten attorney Cor Merx pointed in a letter to the Common Court to the worrisome situation in Curacao and the associated lockdown. “The British variant of the COVID-virus is so intense that people have died. This has caused quite a commotion in the community.”

Merx furthermore notes that the court in Curacao has canceled physical court hearings. “We think that is very sensible. The university has also canceled ongoing exams.”

“One of our Dutch colleagues has caught the disease on a flight from Curacao to the Netherlands. For this reason, Mr. Sulvaran will not take the risk of catching an infection on a flight (to St. Maarten). He will not travel. Mr. Sulvaran is one of the lawyers involved in this issue. The same for Mr. Van der Laan from the Netherlands. The latter country has a code orange travel advice and therefore Mr. Van der Laan will not be able to show up. Justice is good but not at any price,” Merx wrote.

The attorney asked the Common Court therefore to cancel all hearings for the month of April, citing the risk of infection for attorneys and the interest of the general population. “Continuing with the hearings presents a serious risk of infection for all attorneys (and their family members), for the suspects but also for the staff of the registry. That would be highly irresponsible.”

Merx writes that hearings via video link are not a feasible alternative, firstly because the law does not allow it, and secondly because the connections between the islands are poor.

He points out that a negative PCR-test is not sufficient for the judges to enter St. Maarten: they would also have to quarantine. Merx has informed the inspectorate for public health, the minister of public health and the vice president of the court in St. Maarten about the situation.

In accordance with that, Dr. Eva Lista-De Weever in a memo to Parliament and the Minister of VSA wrote yesterday:

Considering the regional epidemiology and consequent likelihood of imported cases from highly concentrated pools of the UK variant (B.1.1.7), together with the absence of systematic nationwide genetic surveillance on Sint Maarten, CPS recommends temporary border closures to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, effective immediately. CPS would review the situation on each island on a 2-weekly basis.

The hearings of the Common Court are on the agenda for April 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23.

If St. Maarten closes the border with the ABC islands, these hearings will have to be canceled.