I have today read (February 15) with dismay and sadness the front-page reports in both The Royal Gazette and The Boston Globe of the civil proceedings brought by the Government of Bermuda against the globally esteemed institution Lahey Clinic accusing that Burlington Hospital of bribing our former premier, Ewart Brown, “in order to secure health services” in Bermuda.
I will not touch on or go into the merits or subject matter of the proceedings that have been commenced, as to do so would clearly be “sub judice”.
I am sure that your readers have heard of this term before, but for the sake of clarity, the term that provides that matters are considered sub judice — Latin for “under judgment” — once legal proceedings have been commenced.
This is a universal doctrine of human rights to protect the case and the parties to it from unfair prejudice.
While I am still bewildered as to why civil proceedings have been commenced in the United States, what does cause me considerable concern as a senior lawyer in Bermuda is the statement published in The Boston Globe directly quoting the leading officer of our judicial system — the Attorney-General, Trevor Moniz.
While I refrain from quoting our attorney-general for fear of breaching the law and principle of sub judice myself, suffice it to say that there is no question that his quotes — reportedly made as a prepared press statement through the Bermuda Government’s Boston public relations firm, Liberty Square Group — are highly prejudicial, damning and defamatory of both the Lahey Clinic and Dr Brown.
Had the Attorney-General made such a press statement in Bermuda after proceedings had been commenced in our Supreme Court, he clearly would have been in contempt of that court.
While this may be an American way to practise law, fortunately it is still not acceptable in Bermuda. We still follow the common law-enshrined principle that it is contempt of court to make such statements once proceedings have commenced, as such statements clearly bring with them the possibility that a juror, witness, public opinion or even a judge may become prejudiced or influenced by reading or hearing of such remarks, particularly given the eminence from which they come.
Sadly, if one reads the remarks, they will no doubt come to the opinion that they were deliberately made for exactly that purpose.
WENDELL M. HOLLIS
• On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.