‘We Must Be Legal Engineers’ -SC Bar Exam Dux-Miss Brumskine-Raps On Legal Integrity

Every family carries a unique, divine gene which is further hardened by hard work and the sense of superiority. The Brumskines, in Liberia, are an epitome of law. They are ingrained with scholarliness rooted in law practice. From grandfather Hannibal Brumskine through father Charles Walker Brumskine to daughter Charlyne M. Brumskine, Liberians have witnessed a family lineage laden with legal paragons displaying extraordinary skills and acumen in the country’s judicial mosaic. Exactly, 37 years ago when ace barrister Charles Brumskine topped the Supreme Court Bar Test, his daughter took up the mantle this year. As the “valedictorian”, and as tradition dictates, Charlyne Brumskine was given the rostrum to address legal dignitaries and other VIPs who had gathered to witness the coronation of new Bar entrants. And as The Analyst reports, the Brumskine progeny had ample words about integrity and probity in the legal domain.

Miss Charlyne M. Brumskine, the daughter of one of Liberia’s outstanding legal luminary Charles Walker Brumskine, came first in results from this year’s Supreme Court Bar Examination and she proffered strong words of admonition for her colleagues.

“We must push each other to the highest standard of distinction,” Miss Brumskine said in a special statement delivered on behalf of lawyers admitted to the Supreme Court Bar last week.

“We can no longer watch complacently as wrong and injustice reigns and the lawyers, as the custodians of justice, move about circumspectly so as not to disrupt the status quo and cause problems. We must trouble the waters!”

The young Brumskine’s brilliance in law brings memories back to her forebears. As Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence recalled in a post celebrating Charlyne’s top place in the Bar exams, her grandfather, Hannibal Brunskine, used to be called in the Bassa dialect “Gahdyayon kwikponyun”, meaning poor man lawyer.

The Senator continued: “Cllr. Charles Walker Brunskine your father, was called the legal luminary and he was the dux of the 1985 Supreme Court Bar exams. Today, you are the dux for the 2022 Supreme Court bar exams. This is a legacy that we honor and celebrate.”

The young Brumskine believes the legal profession should be the one closest to the calling of God, referencing the Judicial Canon $ Five which states, “The Court is the last place of hope for man on earth!”

“Is that not one of the highest callings?” Miss Brumskine asked rather rhetorically. “What do we say to the poor, the widow, the marginalized, the aggrieved if we, as an association, are unfit to represent them?”

She said the nation’s lawyers are only as strong and as prepared as the least prepared among lawyers, adding: “We must push towards competence for each of us in this profession. Our class of lawyers must leave no counsellor behind. If we know that our brother or sister lawyer is lagging professionally or morally, we are duty-bound to extend a hand, encouragement, and sometimes admonishment!”

Another virtue of lawyers identified and spoken of by Miss Charlyne Brumskine is ‘integrity’ which is edged in the motto the profession.

She adds: “It is a word that often bounces around our legal lexicon. In order to truly have integrity, we must comport ourselves with the strongest moral principles. We must do away with “the practice” and business as usual. We must realize that the most fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution are conferred and meted out by us as advocates. We set the culture, the drum beat and the tone of our nation. As our profession goes, so does the nation!”

She told her colleagues that the other branches of Government look to the Judicial branch as the interpreter and dispenser of rights.

“If we are callous with this sacred responsibility, some might lose their only or last recourse to justice. As the saying goes, the dead cannot cry out for justice. We must make sure that the living are afforded the same!” she intoned, bringing in a third virtue—Innovation.

“Innovation is an elusive term for lawyers,” the young counselor asserted. “Innovation is the action of constant evolution, coming up with new methods, new ways of doing things, presenting new products and ideas to our profession and our nation.”

She admonished that it is incumbent on lawyers to lead the nation into the modern age of how justice is dispensed, technology is implemented, and human rights is assured.

“We are the custodians of the vehicle that will propel Liberia from an underdeveloped nation to one of the fastest developing and burgeoning nation-states in Africa,” Charlyne said further.

“We must challenge the old order!  The law must be the apparatus that we wield in our quest for change, improvement and expansion.”

She emphasized: “My fellow lawyers, I assert that we must be legal engineers that continue to build the new bridge of justice. We must innovate!”

Call for Comradery

The young Liberian barrister used the occasion to drum up calls for collaboration and cooperation amongst lawyers.

She posited that the success of the legal profession is inextricably linked to the manner in which lawyers engage each other.

She stated: “We, as lawyers, can never truly represent the best interest of our clients if we are at odds with each other.  Imagine how difficult it would be to find, what should be, an easy solution to your client’s matter if you and opposing counsel were at unwarranted personal odds. Or the difficulty of negotiating a contract if you and opposing counsel had wrangling over a previous matter.”

She said although the legal system is one that is inherently adversarial in that opposing interests are at stake, “our practice should not be one that is hostile or antagonistic.”

She said the law practice should only seek to advocate for the rights and position of clients, defining adversarial in regard to the law as a procedure in which the parties in dispute have the responsibility for finding and presenting evidence.

She pleaded further: “We, as members of this adversarial process, must be reminded that we are interdependent on and linked to each other. We are more than just colleagues with a shared profession, we are characterized as ‘learned friends’. We are a fraternity that relies on each other to improve the quality of service that we dispense to our clients.  For I am only as good as the lawyer on the other side of the table compels me to be. There are some of us in this room who know that when certain names are called as opposing counsel, we tremble. There are some lawyers who others do not want to go up against because they know that these lawyers’ standard of research and writing will be par excellence.  They will drown their opposing counsel with diligently researched case law that the average lawyer may not take the time to find.  They will confront their opposing counsel with cogent and compelling legal arguments.  These are the lawyers that push us and our craft to excellence.”

Exalting Women Lawyers

Before concluding her valedictorian speech, Miss Brumskine remembered her fellow female lawyers. She stated: “As I close, I would be remiss if I did not carve out a special message to all of the women jurists in Liberia. Today, I speak not as a woman who is a lawyer, I speak as a lawyer who happens to be a woman. I am proud of us. We are indeed breaking barriers! We have come a long way, but we still have such a distance to go.

“The time is now!  Our souls must ache with urgency. We are the bedrock of society. Our children are dying, our sons and daughters are being violated! We are still underrepresented in the law school. We are still being relegated to a few seats at the leadership table. We must decide that we want better for our children, our profession and our nation! I know we can do it and I know we will!  We must get the brooms and sweep the path for the young women who will follow us!”

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