PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday November 12, 2018 – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has dismissed a challenge filed by an aspiring lawyer who claimed that the admission process at law schools in the region discriminates against those who do not have a law degree from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The challenge was mounted by Trinidadian Jason Jones who in July this year filed an application for special leave against the Council of Legal Education (CLE), the Council for Social and Human Development (COHSOD), and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
The CLE was established in 1971 by the Agreement Establishing the Council of Legal Education and operates three law schools in the region—the Norman Manley Law School, the Hugh Wooding Law School and the Eugene Dupuch Law School. These law schools award a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) and the Agreement provides that no person can be admitted in the signatory countries to practice as an Attorney-at-Law who does not hold the LEC.
Jones, who holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London, a Master of Laws in Oil and Gas Law, and a Graduate Diploma in Law, failed the entrance examinations to the law schools in 2015 and 2016. He paid the requisite fees for the examination in 2017 but did not sit it, saying that he was “too disenchanted and discouraged with the entire process”.
Jones contended that the proposed defendants had infringed, and continue to infringe, his rights and benefits under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which allows for the free movement of skilled nationals. In his application, he alleged that the automatic acceptance of persons with law degrees from the UWI into the regional law schools, and the requirement for the holders of “non-UWI” law degrees to sit an entrance exam, was a breach of the treaty.
The Caribbean Community (the Community) then filed an application contending that the CCJ could not hear a claim against the Council of Legal Education, that COHSOD and COTED could not be sued as they do not have legal identities and that Jones’ application was “manifestly ill-founded” and therefore inadmissible. The CLE subsequently filed an application making similar objections.
Emir Crowne, Jones’ counsel, accepted that COHSOD and COTED could not be a party to the application because they had no legal identity and sought to have them substituted by the Community.
The CCJ therefore considered whether to allow the application to continue against the Community. However, the Trinidad-based court noted the automatic acceptance of UWI LLB degrees is something done solely by the Council and its Law Schools, and the requirement that others must write an entrance examination is applied solely by the Council and the Law Schools.
“The Court found that since it had no jurisdiction over the Council, it would be pointless to grant special leave to file an Originating Application against the Community, seeking declarations against the Council. The Community does not direct or control the Council; it does not manage or administrate the Agreement,” the CCJ said.
It also ruled that Jones did not show how the Agreement Establishing the Council of Legal Education violated or could violate the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“The Court found that Mr Jones’ submissions and the Declarations that he sought suggested that the application of…the Agreement was incompatible with the Treaty to the extent that such an application leads to an unjustified difference in treatment of, or discrimination between, holders of law degrees from UWI and those from non-UWI degrees….Mr Jones failed to point to anything in the Treaty that would make it arguable that the application…of the Agreement violated or could violate the Treaty. None of the Treaty provisions referred to by Mr Jones showed any such violation,” it said.
The CCJ therefore dismissed Jones’ application for special leave.