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‘I did not prepare the defence for Thomas’ – Lawyer

‘I did not prepare the defence for Thomas’ – Lawyer

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Prominent lawyer Dr Linton Lewis says he was not the lawyer who prepared the defence pleadings for Matthew Thomas used in a defamation case brought against Thomas and BDS Ltd, for which demands for payment are now being made.

In fact, Lewis says, it was only after Thomas had been “abandoned” by his lawyers, that he took over the case.{{more}}

Lewis contacted SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, taking objection to a statement made in a story published in SEARCHLIGHT Midweek that day, in which we quoted from the ruling of High Court Judge Jennifer Remy in claim no 64 of 2007.

Remy, in her ruling, said, “no submissions were filed by Counsel for the Defendants up to the time of writing this decision, namely the 9th November 2009.”

Counsel for the Claimant and the Defendants had been given up to October 16, 2009 to file written submissions, and the matter was adjourned to November 11, 2009.

In that ruling, the name of counsel for both Defendants, Matthew Thomas and BDS Ltd, is given as Dr Linton Lewis and the name of counsel for the Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the claimant, is given as Grahame Bollers.

“It is unfair to say that I did not prepare a defence for Matthew. I only came into Matthew’s case because he was abandoned by his lawyers. I only assisted Matthew. His defence was already in. I couldn’t change them again, they were not prepared by me,” Dr Lewis told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday.

He said Thomas was originally represented by Bayliss Frederick of Frederick’s Attorneys, but at the last minute, Frederick withdrew from the case.

“Matthew knows how I ended up defending him. He was left in a courtroom one day, abandoned by his lawyer. Nobody was there. Because he taught me in teachers’ training centre, I thought, let me, because if nobody represents him, that is the end of my client. I had no other choice.”

Lewis said he is the lawyer for the second defendant BDS Ltd, and if the case of the first defendant failed, his client’s case would have also failed. He however said he did represent Thomas in another defamation case brought by the prime minister, no 222 of 2009.

In the interview on Tuesday, Lewis said there were procedural problems with Thomas’s defence, which were struck down by Remy in her ruling.

“Once you strike those out, he has no defence,” Lewis said.

“They struck out the fair comment defence, they struck out the part where he said he didn’t know that he spoke the words, they struck out the part where he denied that the word “assassination” is a criminal offence,” Lewis explained.

In the story published on Tuesday, Thomas told SEARCHLIGHT that he had retained a new lawyer, Kay Bacchus Browne, who had applied to have judgment in the case set aside, because in his view, the judgment had been made summarily, without a defence being filed.

However Lewis disagrees with this approach.

“It is not a matter of summary judgment, it is a matter of striking out what he has as his defence. The judge did not look at the case on a whole. The judge looked at certain pleadings, which cannot be supported. Once you take those out, that is the end of him. Summary judgment is if you look at the entire case and then determine that you have no case to go forward,” Lewis explained.

Lewis obviously has had a change of heart, as shortly after Justice Remy’s ruling had been handed down in November 2009, he had indicated his intention to appeal.

In article headlined “Judgement surprises lawyer” published in The Vincentian of November 20, 2009, Lewis is reported as saying that he was surprised that a judgement had been delivered in the case, and that Thomas and BDS Ltd intended to appeal. He also said, according to that story, that he had filed his arguments on November 10, 2009, more than three weeks after the deadline of October 16, 2009.

Thomas said since the ruling in November 2009, except for one meeting, he has not been able to meet with Lewis to discuss the case, despite making several phone calls and visits to Lewis’s office.

“He told Kay [Bacchus Browne] the reason why he didn’t continue the case with me, is because I did not pay him,” Thomas told SEARCHLIGHT.

Lewis also told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that he is bothered that he has not been properly remunerated by Thomas for the substantial work he has done on this case and another one which he said he took to the appeal court.

“What bothers me is Matthew is not paying any money for these things. If you see the amount of work I did for Matthew for these two cases, all the way up to the court of appeal,” Lewis said.

“Matthew has a $100,000 case and paid $1000.00. Two cases, one started in 2007, the judgment given in 2009, two years work. One started 2011, went all the way to the court of appeal, three years, not a cent. Preparing all those papers, etc., not a cent.

Thomas however disputes this, saying that he paid Lewis $2000.00 in August 2009 to handle the case, and prior to that, he had paid Bayliss Frederick.

“So I showed Kay [Bacchus Browne] the [cheque] stub where I paid Bayliss $1200.00 in May. In August 2009 that same year, I paid Linton $2000.00 That is what he asked me for. The cheques were cashed. They got their money,” Thomas said.

“Let’s face it, even if he wanted more money to appeal or do anything further, confront me and say you have to give me more money before I go on with this case. The only money he asked me for is the $2000 in August 2009,” Thomas said.

BDS Ltd and Thomas are co-defendants in a High Court case in which they were ordered, on February 10, 2012, to pay aggravated damages of $155,000, plus costs of $11,625, plus interest to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. As at May 9, 2014, the sum owed had reached $185,370.31 having accumulated $18,745.31 in interest in the two years, three months since the ruling.

Gonsalves brought action against Thomas and BDS Ltd. because in a broadcast on Nice Radio, Thomas spoke words, which, according to the ruling, meant and were understood to mean that Gonsalves intended to resort to criminal activity in order to silence Thomas’s co-host on the Stay Awake radio programme, Junior Bacchus.

BDS Ltd is the company that operates Nice Radio.

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