Today’s Opinion: Friendship or career

POSTED: 03/30/11 1:06 PM

For the time being, a Hedy Kockx will have to drop the attorney at law label that she sports on the web site of her employer Bloem and Peterson.

Kockx was not admitted to the bar, and that is a prerequisite for people who want to present themselves as an attorney to the public.

The reasons why the Common Court in the end decided not to register Kockx as an attorney are extraordinary. She hooked up with a boyfriend in the Netherlands who was soon afterwards sentenced to ten years imprisonment in St. Maarten for his role in a series of armed robberies. Next she was found in the house where an arrest team overwhelmed Devon Otto on April 10, a series of violent crimes to his name, among them the murder of census office employee Stanley Gumbs on March 31, 2008.

Kockx was also happily smoking a joint when the arrest team busted Otto; there was a marijuana plan in the house as well as a Ruger P95 9 mm hand gun – the weapon Otto used to kill Stanley Gumbs.

Kockx’ employer Mr. J.G. Bloem indicated that he would have preferred to go without the publicity about this case, and from his point of view, that is understandable. Bloem told this newspaper that Kockx is “a tremendous jurist,” and that she will certainly ask the court to reconsider its decision. He regrets that matter has become public.

But there are other considerations that make it necessary to make this information public. First of all, members of the public have the right to know whom they are dealing with when they are looking for an attorney.

And an attorney you are only after you have been registered, the president of the Bar Association points out in today’s story.

Maybe Kockx would have been able to save the day when she appeared before the judges in the Common Court of Justice to plead her case. But the Court noted that her attitude testified of “a far-reaching level of naiveté” where it concerned her contacts with convicted criminals and the possible consequences thereof for her functioning as an attorney. For now, all these facts combined were reason enough for the court to refuse the registration.

Though decisions of this nature are extremely rare, the ruling against Kockx shows that the screening system for lawyers works better than the one for politicians. As far as we know, proper screening of our ministers in a verifiable way has never taken place. That is a pity, not only for the public, but also for the politicians involved, who have missed an opportunity to show that there is nothing in their background that compromises their functioning in the government.

And Kockx? For the lady in question, the refusal by the court to register her is definitely not the end of the road. She has the ability to as the court to reconsider its decision – an initiative that she could take now, or maybe a year further down the road. She will probably be sadder but also wiser and that won’t hurt anybody.

We have seen last year how the admission to the bar of former Chief Prosecutor Cor Merx caused controversy. The solicitor general did everything within his power to convince the court that it was not a good idea to admit Merx, but his arguments fell flat, and Merx is now a registered attorney. A second attempt by the prosecutor’s office to have Merx disbarred failed.

Such procedures cannot be happy experiences for the people who have to go through them, but they are a necessary part of all efforts to keep the legal profession on a level that will give the public that depends on its services enough confidence to trust them with their money and with their future – be it behind bars or as free citizens.

It is, and we realize this very well, all too easy to nail someone to the wall for his or her mistakes. What will happen in the future depends largely on Kockx herself. There is apparently nothing wrong with her legal mind – on the contrary – but she has some work to do on what the court determined was her “far-reaching level of naiveté.”

She should of course also dump her criminal friends – but hey – that is not up to us to decide. In the end, life is a matter of choices and the choices that are the most important usually prevail over other options. And if the choice is between friendship and career, who is going to say that one is more important than the other?


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