Melee: Legal Insights

Melee: Legal Insights

From Attorney at Law Suhendra Leon. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

My knowledge of English Caribbean slang is non-existent. I was a little confused when somebody said that I was involved in a “melee” when a court case that I was involved in was reported on in the media. After a little deduction, I came to more or less understand what was meant by the word “melee”.

According to a YouTube video I watched, this word in Caribbean English slang means gossip or drama. As a lawyer working on a small island, you come to be involved in cases that are surrounded by “melee”. Therefore, in this article, I want to inform you about one of the core values of my profession.

“Advocaten” in Dutch – to which the closest translation is “attorneys at law” – are sworn in by the Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. Therefore, not to be confused with a lawyer, who is someone that studied law – in Dutch, “jurist”. Attorneys at law are lawyers, but not all lawyers are attorneys at law.

Part of being an attorney at law in the Dutch Caribbean is that attorneys at law fall under the supervision of a supervisory council that is in charge of taking disciplinary actions against attorneys at law that “misbehave” in their capacity or in a private capacity that can be of influence on their functioning as an attorney at law. Parties directly affected in their interests by the “misbehaviour” of an attorney at law, can launch a complaint against the attorney at law at the supervisory counsel for attorneys at law.

Attorneys at law are subject to a code of conduct and in that code of conduct, it is established that an attorney at law is obliged to maintain secrecy about everything that is communicated to him, or regarding what he receives from his client in the course of the exercise of his profession. Even if a correct performance of the task assigned to him, in his opinion, demands sharing the information, the attorney at law must refrain from sharing this information if the client has expressed that doing so is against his wishes. The attorney at law is bound by secrecy even when the client-attorney relationship has ended. The attorney at law should also make sure that employees at the firm are bound by confidentiality.

When the attorney at law is not obliged to maintain secrecy, he must remain silent about the details of matters that are or have been handled by him, about the person of his client, and the nature and extent of the interests of his clients. Further, he must remain silent about what comes to his knowledge from the opposing party or from a third party in the course of his work, while only using such information in so far as it serves a reasonable interest. Confidential communications from a counterparty or a third party may only be used by the attorney at law to the extent that he has been given the freedom to do so.

The duty of confidentiality is one of the core values for an attorney at law – after all, clients must feel free and safe to share information with the confidence that this information will stay between them and their confidential advisor.

This is only one subject to enlighten the readers about the responsibilities of my profession. We as professionals benefit if we are held accountable. This can be done between others by complaining of “misbehaviour” of an attorney at law at the supervisory council. It keeps us on our toes on what we swore to uphold.

Feel free to correct me if I use the word “melee” wrong (I am new to Caribbean slang); but while I may be involved in the melee from time to time, I will refrain to share information, unless expressly permitted to do so by my client. I certainly will not participate in melee involving confidential information that I am privy to because of my work.

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