Common Court refuses to register aspiring attorney

POSTED: 03/30/11 12:56 PM

Judges cite links to convicted criminals and “far-reaching level of naiveté”

St. Maarten /By Hilbert Haar – The Common Court of Justice refused to admit Hedy Kockx as an attorney to the Bar Association in St. Maarten. Currently, Kockx works at the law office of Bloem and Peterson, where she presents herself on the company’s web site as an attorney at law. Kockx is on vacation and was unavailable for a comment yesterday.

This newspaper reached her employer Mr. J.G. Bloem, who is currently off island, briefly yesterday. Bloem said that he preferred not to see any publicity about it, since the decision had been taken in a closed hearing, but he did not deny that the court ruling is about Kockx.

“Hedy is a tremendous jurist,” Bloem said, adding that it is certain she will ask the court to reconsider its decision. “The court did not follow the correct procedure,” Bloem said, “because it did not call up the dean of the Bar Association. And Mr. Van Veen (the Judge, not the attorney – ed.) who coordinates these events in St. Maarten, has given a positive advice,.”

One consequences of the court ruling is that Kockx is not entitled to present herself as “attorney at law” as she currently does on the web site of Bloem and Peterson. “You are only an attorney once you are registered,” the president of the Bar Association, Mr. B.G. Hofman told this newspaper yesterday, adding that it does not happen very often that the court refuses to register someone.

However, the ruling does not necessarily end Kockx’s career in the legal profession. “It is always possible to ask the court to reconsider,” Hofman said. “That has happened before; it is a lot easier to get another decision here than it is in the Netherlands.”

Kockx studied Dutch criminal law at the University of Tilburg and worked during her studies as a criminal court recorder in Breda, she states on Bloem’s web site. She graduated in 2005 and then worked for four years as a legal advisor for local and federal government agencies. In March 2010 she entered into the employ of Bloem and Peterson.

On September 8 of last year Kockx submitted a request to the court to be registered as an attorney in St. Maarten. On November 16, the attorney general stated in writing that he had no objections against the request, and a couple of weeks later, on December 6, the supervisory Board advised to honor the request. On December 17 the Common Court heard Kockx.

Then, on January 18 of this year, the solicitor general issued a second advice at the request of the Common Court. This time the advice was negative.

On January 27, Kockx appeared for another hearing in the Common Court. On that occasion, the acting attorney general maintained the objections against admitting Kockx to the bar.

The Common Court based its objections on links between Kockx and two convicted criminals: Otto Devon and (most likely) Jarvil Omary Richardson.

Kockx got acquainted with Richardson in the Netherlands in 2007. But a year later he was arrested in St. Maarten as a suspect in the Scary Movie Gang robberies that terrorized the island in 2005. Richardson was eventually sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

After Richardson’s arrest in 2008, Kockx came to St. Maarten from the Netherlands, where she soon ended up in dubious company. On April 10, of that year an arrest team entered the home of an acquaintance of her partner. That acquaintance turned out to be Otto Devon .

Otto committed a series of violent crimes in 2008; the most baffling one was the murder of Census Office employee Stanley Gumbs on March 31, 2008 in a case of mistaken identity. Otto was sentenced to 30 years.

But there was something else that did not benefit Kockx stature as a future lawyer: she was found smoking marijuana in Otto’s home and officers also found the gun – a Ruger P95 9 mm handgun – that Otto had used to kill Stanley Gumbs, as well as a marijuana plant.

The National Ordinance for Attorneys contains an article that obliges the Common Court to refuse admission to the bar if there is reasonable fear that the requester will violate the general ordinances that apply to attorneys, or that the registration otherwise will damage the reputation of the legal profession.

The Judges in the Common Court – Mrs. F.J.P. Lock, P.E. de Kort and H.J. van Kooten – ruled on February 8 that this situation applies to Kockx. The court ruled that there is reasonable doubt that the requester, once she has been admitted to the bar, “will manage to keep sufficient distance from, in brief, the criminal underworld.”

But apart from these considerations, the judges also took into account Kockx’ attitude during the hearing. The judges wrote in their ruling that they are not convinced that Kockx had thought sufficiently about the possibility of conflicts of interest, loyalty problems and external influences” and about the question how to handle in her situation the important privileges and obligations of an attorney as “keeper of secrets.”

The judges found that Kockx had displayed “a far-reaching level of naiveté” and that for this reason “the professional independence of the requester as an attorney is insufficiently guaranteed and that the fear is justified that her admission will damage the honor of the legal profession.”


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