Leader of the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), Lennox Shuman has commenced proceedings in the High Court in which he is asking for an Order stopping prominent lawyer Nigel Hughes from representing the Guyana Chronicle, and its Editor-in-Chief Nigel Williams in a libel case he brought against the newspapers in 2019.
In a Notice of Application (NoA) filed last week in the High Court, Shuman, through his lawyer Sanjeev Datadin, contends that Hughes, who has been his lawyer for years, is in a “conflicted position”, since he continues to represent the Guyana Chronicle in legal proceedings he brought against the newspapers in relation to articles published which, among other things, intend to lower his character.
As a consequence, apart from asking the Court for an Order restraining Hughes from continuing to represent the newspapers, Shuman is also seeking an Order to provide that costs for the NoA be payable by Hughes, and any or other Orders that may be necessary and appropriate to resolve the conflict of interest position of Hughes that is adversely affecting him.
In grounds in support of the NoA which has the Guyana Chronicle and its Editor-in-Chief listed as the Respondents, Shuman said that prior to the High Court case he filed against Guyana Chronicle in 2019 in two independent matters, he received legal advice and assistance from Hughes.
According to Shuman, Hughes acted on his behalf and wrote a letter as required and offered legal advice related to an allegation of assault leveled against him. That matter, he disclosed, was resolved following Hughes’ letter and without any further steps being necessary. Shuman states that Hughes assisted him in a second matter which occurred sometime in 2017, related to a charge of disorderly conduct against him.
He said that this matter was resolved in the Mahaica Magistrate’s Court and Hughes, acted on his behalf in those proceedings which ended unsatisfactory and an appeal has been filed with the Court of Appeal. Shuman argues that the lawyer and client relationship between him and Hughes was never expressly or impliedly terminated by either party.
He argues, too, that as far as he is aware, Hughes is still his lawyer in the defamation case against Guyana Chronicle that is pending in the Full Court.
In his letter dated May 14, 2020 to Hughes, highlighting the purported conflict of interest, Shuman stated that he had discussed the libel proceedings with the lawyer, and to his surprise he learnt that he is the lawyer representing Guyana Chronicle, and acting against him. He said that in response, Hughes admitted that he had acted on behalf of him, but insisted there was no conflict of interest because it was pro bono [free] work.
According to Shuman, “ [He] is concerned that Hughes has failed to comply and act in accordance with the applicable code of conduct. That Hughes failed to recuse himself from acting further for the [Guyana Chronicle] despite being aware that there is a clear conflict of interest. And, moreso, Hughes has continued to act and be involved in the previous court hearings for the [Guyana Chronicle] without disclosing the existence of the conflict of interest.”
In court documents seen by Guyana Standard, Shuman disclosed that Hughes is in possession of confidential information directly related to the issues in the libel proceedings he brought against the newspaper, and he has not given consent for disclosure to occur, and if it occurs, it will adversely affect him.
It is against this background, Shuman argues that Hughes cannot act at the same time for and against him, and law firm Hughes, Fields and Stoby of which he is a Managing Partner, is in no better position as the inescapable conflict of interest is inherent in the situation.
As an officer of the Court, Shuman further argues that the Court is entitled to determine whether Hughes and his associates may still continue to represent the Guyana Chronicle and its Editor-in-Chief in the matter and be recognized by the Court as a due advocate in these proceedings.
Given all of the circumstances, Shuman prays that the Court grants the Orders set out in the Notice of Application.