Willock's Final Legal Bill Stands At $98K

Esther Durand, Journalist
November 22, 2021 7:43 am AST
Esther Durand, Journalist | November 22, 2021 7:43 am AST
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(Photo Credit: Esther Durand/BVI Platinum News)
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(Photo Credit: Esther Durand/BVI Platinum News)

Acting Commercial Court Judge Adrian Jack has ordered Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Julian Willock to pay a grand sum of $98, 676.51 in legal fees associated with an injunction against three attorneys of the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI).

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Willock's injunction claimed that the trio – Bilal Rawat, Andrew King and Rhea Harrikisoon – were practicing law in the territory without being called to the bar, contrary with the Legal Professions Act of 2015.

However, Hon. Willock aborted the injunction after the court held that consent was needed from Attorney General Hon. Dawn Smith for the matter to proceed.

In a published judgment issued on November 11, 2021, the court said the total fee was a combination of lawyers' fees and administrative costs which must be paid by Hon. Willock to the CoI lawyers and the Attorney General.

The AG’s office submitted a bill of $6,084.00 while the bill from the other defendants amounted to $115,348.50. Notably, the latter had initially submitted a bill of $71,388.59 prior, with a difference of over $43,000.

This new order of costs is $22,755. 99 less than the grand sum of $121,432.5 which is the fees put forward by both the AG and the CoI team combined.

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Unreasonable Bill – Claimant

According to the judgement, the bill presented to the court from the law firm Walkers is “wholly unreasonable and disproportionate,” according to Hon. Willock.

The court document pointed to the bill from the AG’s office of $6,084 for 18.2 hours while the Walkers bill is claiming 147 hours in addition to “incalculable amount of time for Andrew Sutcliffe Q.C.”

It continued, “The Court should treat this with great suspicion. In fact, the bill produced by the lawyers working directly for Walkers far exceeds that of Andrew Sutcliffe QC’s. It is clear from this fact alone, that their bill is completely unreasonable.”

The claimant stated it was also “quite interesting to note,” that the lawyers from Walkers appear to spend excessive time on reviewing draft judgments issued by the Court.

“This is particularly concerning, because even though Andrew Sutcliffe QC’s billing is unclear (one of the lawyers for the defendants), it appears that he doesn’t spend half as much of the time that the lawyers from Walkers do on certain items, charging a mere GBP 150.00 plus VAT for reviewing a draft judgment that Walker’s $4,340.00 (Items 57, 58 and 60),” the judgement said, quoting the claimant.

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Issues were also raised with the fees of other lawyers which Judge Jack said were also excessive and he reduced the fee from $950 to $900 per hour in at least one case.

“I have considered whether the total allowed below of $98,676.51 is a reasonable overall figure. In my judgment it is. This was litigation which was very significant to the first to the fourth defendants. Had the claimant obtained an injunction preventing the second, third and fourth defendants acting in the Commission of Inquiry, that would have seriously impacted on the Commission’s ability to conclude its work. Mr. Willock must have been aware of this potential impact. The legal resources employed, including the instruction of leading counsel, were reasonable,” Judge Jack concluded.

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