Emery Robertson Snr: A practitioner who cared for people
WHEN THE LATE Emery Robertson Snr was alive, he said he wanted to be remembered as a practitioner who cared for people, and who saw that the law was practiced to bring justice to the common man.
And now, following his death on August 13, many lawyers have commented on the dedicated, generous and meticulous character of the veteran lawyer, who died just a few days before his 50th anniversary at the Bar.
With tissue in hand from the times that she became emotional during her address, lawyer Vynnette Frederick, told the host of lawyers that filled the halls of the High Court at Kingstown last Tuesday, at a special sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in his honour, that it was Robertson’s wish to be remembered as such.
“Senior you have lived such a life. You are loved, you are remembered for your strength,” she said, as well as resilience, “for your support to other junior practitioners and for being someone who understood what justice meant to the common man.”
Frederick relayed that Robertson and his daughter, Samantha, were like family to her.
The counsel described Robertson as a senior who was always willing to guide his junior counsel, and would at times offer gentle rebuke.
“You never felt scorched by anything that he had to say, which was intended to correct you for some failing on your part,” she said.
She revealed that she was heartbroken at not having spoken to Robertson the day before his death, after learning that he wasn’t feeling well.
“..Normally I would call him immediately and say Senior what’s happening? And something in me just said, you know what, if he’s not well don’t call him because he might not be able to indulge you,” she recalled.
Later on in her speech, the attorney revealed, “my heart breaks because I am not ready for him to be gone, and none of us is ever ready.”
Another lawyer who became emotional, and had to be handed a tissue as she remembered the late counsel, was counsel Maia Eustace.
Eustace disclosed that she is part of group of lawyers whose fathers all sat in the same sixth form together.
“And they (the fathers) share a characteristic,” she revealed, “which is service to a point of their own personal detriment.”
“I saw Emery’s health start to wane and I attributed it then as I do now, to his commitment to everyone else’s needs,” Eustace stated.
“It was not unusual to go into his Chambers and find Emery sitting with the client the entire day, one client, the whole day,” without eating lunch, and surviving only on coffee.
“That wears on you after a while, it wears on all of our fathers,” she said to the children of Robertson, seated to her right. They “leave nothing for themselves when the day is done,” she added.
She counted him as an advocate who was enamoured with “the principle of the thing.”
In his last days, Robertson did not sleep much, she said, as “he was engaged in some form of advocacy, on his own life, and typical of Emery, he would not go quietly into that good night.”
“I am sure his submissions were stellar. And I will miss him,” Eustace commented.
While there were many tears shed that day by lawyers and the Robertson family, there was also laughter.
Friend of the family, counsel Duane Daniel, provided many anecdotes about Robertson in describing his character.
One story highlighted, as many others had done that day, Robertson’s “tenacity for holding on to a point,” which Daniel described as “legend.”
“I remember he once held the Court of Appeal to ransom for almost two full days. Shortly thereafter, and perhaps by no coincidence, the Chief Justice issued guidelines and directions on the length of written submissions and counsels’ appearance before the Court of Appeal,” he remembered, adding, to laughter appearing to acknowledge the truth of the statement, “Our local Bar jokingly referred to it as the Emery Direction.”
The counsel commented that Robertson was a pleasant and kind man, “always affable and always with a smile with his dimples at the end.”
“His humour, his offbrand personality, his passion for work, his love for his family, and children, he will be missed,” Daniel noted towards the end of his speech.
President of the Bar Association, counsel René Baptiste, also lauded Robertson as a disciplined professional, and a mentor for her in her younger days.
“He has left an inheritance, a legacy for generations to come and to follow the lead that he has set. He has always insisted on thorough research. He believed in sound arguments, even though he was stubborn and firm in his view, he lacked arrogance. He was always the gentleman lawyer,” she summarized.
Counsel Kay Bacchus- Baptiste, revealed, “I always remember Emery’s warmth, willingness to share, his wit and humour, but the word that stands out most in my mind that describes Emery Winston Robertson is: graciousness. He was a very gracious, soft-spoken gentleman.”
She too remembered his tireless advocacy.
These lawyers were joined by queen’s counsel Parnell Campbell, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Justice Pearletta Lanns who all reminisced with their own stories.
Robertson was laid to rest one day later with an official funeral on September 9.