Lawyers face pro bono mandate

GEORGE TOWN — The government is pushing to require all private attorneys to provide at least 25 hours of pro bono services a year or pay an annual fee if they want to opt out.

The proposed bill comes amidst proposed cuts to the legal aid budget and a steady increase in crime, coupled with a rise in attorney fees.

Government officials are accepting public comments through July.

Attorneys who decide to take on pro bono cases and do not follow through would face disciplinary measures. Those who opt out would be required to pay nearly $3,000 a year.


Ministers quit amid turmoil

ST. GEORGE’S — Foreign Affairs Minister Karl Hood resigned amid increased bickering between Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and his Cabinet.

Hood, who served nearly four years in his post, accused the Cabinet of repeatedly refusing to approve and fund his proposed projects. His resignation came nearly three weeks after Tourism Minister Peter David stepped down after the information minister refused to retract public comments in which he accused David and others of plotting to remove Thomas from office.

Thomas recently survived a no-confidence vote after some legislators complained about his leadership style and said he was not open to opinions different from his own. Hood was the only minister who abstained on the vote.


Status referendum format announced

SAN JUAN — The elections commission announced the order of questions regarding an upcoming referendum in which voters will decide the future of the island’s political status.

Commission Director Hector Conty said the options will be offered in the following order: statehood, independence and sovereign free association, decided by a random drawing.

The two-part referendum will first ask voters on Nov. 6 if they want a change in status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part will then present voters with the three options.

Regardless of what voters decide, any change requires approval by the U.S. Congress and president.

Puerto Rico has held similar referendums

in 1967, 1993 and 1998, with no majority for any particular status.

The following news briefs were compiled from reports by The Associated Press