Manning, who was suspended on Monday until the end of the Parliament session on midnight June 17, has himself racked up a legal bill estimated to be $3.2 million in order to push through legal cases as he sought to have the courts deal with a procedural ruling of the Privileges Committee.
Manning has thus far brought three cases: an application for leave to apply for judicial review filed on February 17 (withdrawn); a constitutional motion filed on May 5, seeking a declaration that a ruling of the committee was unconstitutional (pending); and an application for interim relief in relation to the constitutional motion which was due to come up for hearing yesterday (withdrawn).
All of the matters involve Manning’s procedural argument that his lawyers should have been allowed to question and cross-examine witnesses above and beyond advising him.
Attorneys representing Manning are due to push ahead with the pending constitutional motion within the week by filing fresh pleadings in relation to their challenge of the constitutionality of the procedures of the Privileges Committee. The lawyers currently are seeking a declaration that the committee’s practice is unconstitutional.
Lawyers on Manning’s team for the three matters have included: Douglas Mendes SC, John Jeremie SC, juniors Stuart Young and Kerywn Garcia and instructing attorney Sasha Franklin of Alexander Jeremie & Co. Young and Jeremie accompanied Manning at meetings of the committee earlier this year.
In response, the State has retained several lawyers.
Lawyers for the Ministry of the Attorney General, against whom Manning’s lawsuits were brought, include: Russell Martineau SC, Dana Seetahal SC, junior Kelvin Ramkissoon and instructing attorney Sean Julien.
But additionally, the State has had to retain counsel for the Parliament. Retained for the committee is Deborah Peake SC. Another attorney is said to have been retained as an instructing attorney.
The typical fee on brief for a senior counsel ranges between $300,000 to $500,000 at the High Court level. Fees depend on the complexity of the matter, whether the matter is novel as well as other considerations. Juniors normally charge two-thirds of that paid to seniors and instructing attorneys normally bill one third of the quantum deemed fit for seniors.
Using the lower estimate of $300,000 for a fee on brief for all three court matters, the legal costs incurred by Manning thus far is an estimated $3.2 million. Similarly, the State has incurred $3.9 million in legal costs.
Costs in relation to the application which was withdrawn this week are due to be assessed on May 31, before High Court Judge Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, according to correspondence obtained by Newsday yesterday. Costs may, ultimately, all have to be paid by one party: the losing one.
The February 17, 2011 judicial review application was withdrawn after Manning’s lawyers agreed with submissions from attorneys for the Privileges Committee who argued that Manning had an alternative remedy of filing a motion in Parliament.
That motion failing in the Parliament, Manning pushed ahead with the constitutional motion which had been scheduled for May 31. However, lawyers for Manning last week are understood to have written to the presiding Justice Rajnauth-Lee seeking to have an application for interim relief dealt with as a matter of priority yesterday.
The interim relief application, which could have stayed deliberations of the committee, was effectively overtaken by the Government’s decision to table the committee’s report last week Friday and have the matter debated on Monday.
Opposition MP Colm Imbert alleged on Monday that the Government rushed forward debate on the findings of the Committee in order to preempt the court action scheduled for yesterday.
That court action was pulled by Manning’s lawyers on Monday, Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar said in response, citing court correspondence. Ramadhar also noted that the application for interim relief had not, until Monday, been filed.
By letter dated May 16, 2011, an assistant registrar of the Supreme Court wrote attorneys for Manning confirming the withdrawal of yesterday’s planned application for interim relief.
“I have been asked by the Honourable Madam Justice Rajnauth-Lee to inform you that in light of the fact that you indicated to her JSO via telephone (on the 16th instant) that your client will no longer be pursuing the interim application fixed for Tuesday 17 May, 2011 from 9am to 11am, hearing of the said application has been vacated.
“The court also noted that no formal application had to date been filed,” the assistant registrar, Shabiki Cazabon, advised. “The Honourable Judge has also indicated that if there are any issues of costs or otherwise arising out of hearing of the interim application being vacated, same will be dealt with at the first case management conference which is fixed for May 31, 2011, at 2 pm.”
Ramadhar on Monday said the committee had, up until last Friday, received no notice of an order staying their proceedings despite all of Manning’s court matters. He expressed “sadness” over the issue of Manning’s conduct and the Opposition’s treatment of it.