THE CURACAO BAR ASSOCIATION

Something about the early period

The Curaçao Bar Association was established on Saturday 11 June 1977 in the Ala Blancaroom of the Curaçao Plaza Hotel. The Bar is an association (with corporate personality) for advocates (attorneys, lawyers) practicing on the island. Erich Zielinski was the first President of the Bar; he resigned on 11 July 1978. The initial Board consisted of W. Knoppel (Vice-President), A. Richardson (Secretary) and R. Daantje (Treasurer).

The invitation to the Bar’s inaugural meeting concluded with the following sentence: “Could you please enter the date now in your diary with the request to your secretary to remind you on the 10th of June that you have an important meeting on Saturday? ” This meeting was attended by 15 advocates and one advocate had himself represented.

It appears from the inaugural meeting that there was already an explicit wish ultimately to bring about statutory regulation of the Bar. Now, 37 years later, we have to admit that this has not yet come about but with a little bit of luck statutory regulation will materialize in 2015.

The Curaçao Bar was necessary in order to achieve a better and more active organization of the bar association. On 21 June 1977 Erich Zielinski sent a letter to the Members of the Bar indicating that he no longer wanted to be responsible for the management of the photocopying machine in the Bar’s robing room and the associated accounts. He suggested that the Bar engage a typist/telephone operator at a salary of ANG 4,800 per annum. As appears from a letter of 30 August 1977 from the then President, on 1 September 1977 Ms. Ninoshka Susanna was employed by the Bar as a typist/telephone operator. She left a long time ago and the Members of the Bar have for many years been assisted by Nadeska Wooter. In addition, Nadeska has more or less become the information core of the Bar and she is a valuable source for attorneys when they need to know something about the doings or place of residence of one of the Bar’s Members.

Now back to the past again. Lots of initiatives were already being developed in the initial period of the Bar. The Bar pleaded for the Monday case-list to be available within due time, wanted to make sure that case law was quickly at the disposal of the advocates, wanted to provide the respective advocates as soon as possible via its employee with information from the Court house (in order to avoid that they would not appear at hearings by mistake) and wanted to contribute more in a general sense to the proper administration of justice. Current topics lists have not really detracted much from this list.

That the Bar was also a discerning body appears from a letter from the Board of the Bar to the Members of 29 June 1978. Attached to this letter is a draft of a press release with regard to a dispute with the then Procurator General Mr. L. Nahr. The Bar rejected the idea that the “bad guys” (the accused in criminal cases) really have no right or less right to protection and that the advocates defending them should (not) be tolerated as an ineradicable evil and ought to be restricted in their powers as much as possible.

In the same press release the Bar warned that the constitutional State threatened to slip down into a banana republic in the Kingdom. In that connection the States of the Netherlands Antilles were also strongly criticized: “The legislature is so spoon-fed by the executive powers that there is no question of effective supervision. There has been no sign of any creative work demonstrating that the States have an eye for the needs of the Antilles or for its controlling functions over the management of the portfolios assigned to the ministers. (…) The current Minister of Justice not only showed himself to be incompetent but by his statements with regard to the members of the Court of Justice and his intimidation of publicity media, also totally unsuitable. ” The Bar then added to this that, if the States display insufficient responsibility, the question arises of whether it might now be time for the government of the Kingdom to give “deeper content” to the guarantee function laid down in Article 43 of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Thus, in the beginning, the Bar apparently already had a strong activist nature and in that respect there has been clearly a Renaissance in the past years (although not considered only as positive by all the Members). This activist approach does appeal to me: on the one hand wanting to contribute to a better administration of justice and protection of the constitutional state but on the other hand not tolerating curtailment of the duties of the Bar in any form whatsoever. In this connection the Bar – still – has an eye open for shortcomings of the Bar itself.

I sufficed here with a few snatches from the early period of the Bar which I based on documents from the private archive of Erich Zielinski which he handed to me in 2009. Unfortunately the Bar has no central archive and neither has its history yet been put on paper. But that is the way it usually goes with an association the nature and size of the activities of which are determined by those who, on a voluntary basis, want to spend time and energy to this association. It is thanks to all those who dedicated themselves to the Bar in the past 37 years, that the Bar is still a respected organization. Let these members inspire the others to continue the work!

Karel Frielink
(Attorney/Lawyer, Partner)

(11 January 2015)
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