Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

DON'T TRUST YOUR PANAMA LAWYER TO KNOW THE LAW: HE MAY HAVE BOUGHT HIS DIPLOMA

When a client retains an attorney, anywhere in the world, he explicitly trusts that lawyer to: (1) know the laws of his country, whether they be statutory or case law,  (2) to be able to navigate through the various court systems, by understanding their rules of procedure, and (3) to be a zealous advocate for his or her client. Unfortunately, in the Republic of Panama this is not always the case. Do you know why ?

Panama's legal system suffers from several major problems, the most pressing one being that many members of the judiciary rules in favor of the party paying the largest bribe, and this includes the members of the Supreme Court of Justice, including its president, who is the functional equivalent of the chief justice, who was just reelected to that post, notwithstanding the dozen criminal charges pending against him.


Here are the specific reasons why you cannot trust some Panama City lawyers to represent you in court, or in office practice:

(1) A number of wealthy Panamanians actually purchased their law degree for cold cash; they never attended one hour of instruction in law school, where one learns issue perception, the process by which attorneys identify issues, through a study of decisions designed to teach them how to extract them.

(2) Panama has no required bar examination; it has the diploma privilege, meaning that all graduates of Panama's law schools are automatically admitted to the practice of law. The are not tested on their knowledge of the major subjects, procedure, ethics, or any other subject lawyers must master, and be tested upon, in Western democracies.

So, follow me here: a son of an affluent ( whether legitimately wealthy, or affluent through criminal activity) Panamanian buys his law school diploma, get admitted to the bar, by virtue of his degree, and puts up his shingle in Panama City. This is a nightmare waiting to happen.

Some of these non-lawyer lawyers hire competent, trained and educated, lawyers to work in their offices, but they often jump in on actual cases, with disastrous results, When a layman masquerades as a lawyer, the client is denied the services of a legal mind, working on his behalf. I do not have to tell you what the usual outcome is. Of course, if the fake lawyer bribes the judge, as often occurs, the playing field is often leveled. Yes, it is that kind of justice system; you are best served by staying out of it.

Unless your lawyer is from a top Panama city law firm, where the attorneys often hold advanced law degrees (LL.M. or rarely S.J.D./J.S.D.) from North American or European law schools,  you have no guarantee that the lawyer you select to help you is only a poser, not the real mccoy.

A final note: the above-mention head of the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama, is himself on lawyer; yes, José Ayú Prado, himself, is not a lawyer. Watch yourself in Panama, please, lest you get burned.

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