House of Assembly (HOA) Speaker, Julian Willock and his legal team has declined to file an application for Justice Adrian Jack to recuse himself in the matter of a now aborted court injunction against attorneys for the Commission of Inquiry (COI).
This is despite an article appearing on several local media outlets — including the Speaker’s own news website, Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) — claiming that the judge had interfered in the BVI’s legislature by questioning the funding of the Speaker’s legal defence.
Among other things, Justice Jack had instructed the Speaker to sign an affidavit giving details about who in the government agreed to pay his legal fees.
When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, September 28, Justice Jack asked the Speaker’s attorney, Daniel Fligelstone Davies, whether the Speaker was going to file an application for recusal.
Fligelstone Davies said he was not sure where the article originated from and insisted that it did not originate from him (Davies), therefore he was not inclined to file an application for recusal.
Notably, the media coverage on his client’s accusations against Justice Jack originated from a public opening statement Speaker Willock delivered to HOA last Wednesday, September 22.
Fees skyrocket for COI attorneys
As for the actual court hearing about the flopped injunction case, the court was told that the legal fees for attorneys representing the COI’s lawyers have risen significantly since first being disclosed less than a month ago.
Attorney Andrew Sutcliffe, who appeared for the defendants in the COI, said the legal fees for Walkers (BVI) law firm now stand at $115,348.50.
Sutcliffe said the Speaker’s injunction application was misconceived in the first instance and was later withdrawn after an enormous amount of work was done in preparation of the defence of the COI’s attorneys.
Fiona Forbes-Vanterpool, who appeared on behalf of the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Chambers, said her office will not be seeking further costs in the matter.
Forbes-Vanterpool contended that the contract through which Willock engaged the AG‘s chambers did not apply in regard to the injunction that was filed against the COI’s attorneys, therefore the AG was not responsible for Willock’s legal fees.
Justice Jack said he was minded to make a cost order in favour of all five defendants (the persons against whom Willock made the lawsuit), given the evidence that he had heard.
Willock’s attorney was given until October 5 to file any objections to the new cost schedule filed by Withers.
Justice Jack said a written decision on his assessment of costs is expected to follow shortly after he sees any objections filed by Davies.
Background of the injunction
House of Assembly Speaker, Julian Willock, filed an injunction weeks ago against three of the COI’s attorneys – Rhea Harrikisson, Andrew King and Bilal Rawat – from continuing as participants unless they were properly called to the bar in the BVI, in accordance with the law.
Willock later withdrew the matter after failing to get the AG’s permission to move the matter forward in the High Court.
When the court asked Willock, along with the other defendants named (including the AG), to state their respective positions as it relates to legal fees on the matter, the three main defendants claimed that they had incurred $71,388.59 in expenses, while AG Dawn Smith assessed her own costs in the matter at $6,084.00.
Davies argued that the Speaker should not be held responsible for the costs in the matter because he brought it before the court as an administrative action which was a matter of public interest in the first instance.
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