Cayman has four new Queen’s Counsels

Eileen Hydes Nervik sets bar for Caymanians

Four of Cayman’s long-serving attorneys have been appointed to be Queen’s Counsels, the highest rank in their profession.  

They are Ian Paget-Brown, Colin Douglas McKie, Glenis Eileen Nervik and Trevor McDonald Ward. They were appointed in August by the former governor, Duncan Taylor. 

Each received a letters patent stating that Queen Elizabeth II was “well satisfied with [their] loyalty, integrity and ability.” The Queen therefore appointed each to be her Counsel, which they acknowledge by using the letters QC after their names. 

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, who presided at the appointment ceremony last Friday, said it was important for the public to know that the attorneys did not put themselves forward as candidates for the honor. He explained that selection is based entirely on merit, with Cayman’s judges going through a consultation process before making recommendations to the governor. The governor, in turn, submits the names to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where they must be approved by the Secretary of State. 

The Chief Justice said appointment as a QC recognizes not only past service but service in the future, since each appointee promises to well and truly serve the Queen and all he or she may be lawfully called upon to serve “according to the best of my skill and understanding.”  

He said each new QC had given an undertaking to make his or her skills and knowledge available to the public. 

Ramon Alberga QC set out the skills, knowledge and experience that had led to the appointment of Mr. Paget-Brown and Mr. McKie. He was followed by Langston Sibblies QC on behalf of Mrs. Nervik, and by Attorney General Samuel Bulgin QC on behalf of Mr. Ward. 

Mr. Paget-Brown was called to the bar in 1968 in the U.K. He has been associated with the development of law in Cayman for 42 years, having been invited in 1971 to join the firm of the late W. S. Walker. He started his own firm three years later and has practiced and written extensively about the Companies and Trusts Laws and commercial litigation. 

He is the only Cayman Islands attorney ever admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. A member of the Law Reform Commission since 2006, Mr. Paget-Brown was named chairman in 2011. 

Mr. McKie was called to the bar in 1992 in the U.K. and joined Maples and Calder in 1999, when he was admitted to practice locally. Specializing in commercial litigation, dispute resolution, insolvency and corporate restructuring, he has been admitted to practice around the Caribbean in such jurisdictions as British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Mr. McKie is one of the consulting editors for the Cayman Islands Law Reports and has taken over from Mr. Alberga the task of reporting on the work of the courts at the formal opening of Grand Court each year. 

Mr. Sibblies told the large gathering that Friday was a somewhat historic day. To the best of his knowledge, he is the first Caymanian by descent to be appointed a QC, while Eileen Hydes Nervik is the first “born Caymanian” to be so appointed. 

She is also the first QC to have graduated from the Cayman Islands Law School and the first woman in private practice to receive the appointment. (Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards was appointed QC in 2010.) 

Mrs. Nervik was called to the bar in 1989 and has practiced mainly family and children law. She has sat in youth court as a Justice of the Peace, acted as magistrate and, in the words of the chief justice, has given sterling service as Queen’s Coroner in recent years. 

A member of the Law Reform Commission, she has been involved in work to update the legal aid system, revise legislation for landlord and tenancy, as well as protection against domestic violence. 

Mr. Ward was admitted to the bar of Trinidad and Tobago in 1997 and has been primarily involved in criminal law, Mr. Bulgin said. Mr. Ward joined Cayman’s Legal Department in 2005 and became the first deputy director of public prosecutions when the post was created. “His colleagues are elated by his elevation,” Mr. Bulgin said. 

Mr. Ward has a reputation for honesty, discretion and plain dealing and is regarded as a fair and honorable, albeit formidable, opponent. A number of his cases have resulted in landmark decisions by the privy council, Mr. Bulgin noted. Ms Richards seconded the motion for Mr. Ward’s appointment. 

All four newly enrolled QCs spoke briefly, thanking their mentors and people who had supported them through their career. 

Mr. McKie added some historical perspective and commentary. He noted that the first appointment of a QC was in England in 1604. The first appointment of a QC in Cayman was in 1983, when then-Attorney General Michael Bradley was so designated. In the 20 years since, 12 other QCs were appointed preceding the four that day. 

“Courts rely on Queen’s Counsel as having the very best qualities of the Bar; that is, highly learned in the law, highly accomplished as an advocate, total professional integrity, honesty and independence, or, as the Privy Council once said, that it is an office of the Crown, in the nature of an honor or dignity to this extent – it is a mark and recognition by the Sovereign of the professional eminence of the counsel upon whom it is conferred,” Mr. McKie said. 

“For these reasons, the rank of Queen’s Counsel has widespread international recognition and reputation for excellence,” he continued. “It has been said, rightly, that the rank of Queen’s Counsel is one of the badges of the legal systems based on English law, including the Cayman Islands. That badge plays an important part in encouraging international businesses to use those legal systems. 

“In recent high-profile speeches, Kenneth Clarke QC, the former lord chancellor, and Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, have emphasized that English law, the English courts and English lawyers are major contributors to the U.K.’s overseas earnings and thereby provide wider economic and social advantage to the British people. Similar remarks have been made in New Zealand and Australia concerning their legal systems.” 

Mr. McKie suggested that the same could be said of the Cayman Islands. 

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The new Queen’s Counsel and their presenters are, from left, Ramon Alberga, Ian Paget-Brown, Colin McKie, Lancelot Sibblies, Eileen Nervik, Trevor Ward, Samuel Bulgin and Cheryll Richards. – Photo: Carol Winker
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