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Alex Haines and Victoria Brown successful in access to justice argument before the OAS Administrative Tribunal

Following their win before the OAS Administrative Tribunal in the case of Griner v Secretary General of the OAS Judgment 169 (31st August 2022), Alex Haines and Victoria Brown have secured another victory in the case of LaGuerre v Secretary General of the OAS, Resolution 413 (21st October 2022).

After Mr LaGuerre’s case had been filed in March 2022, the OAS filed two motions:

  1. Motion to dismiss the case in its entirety for being frivolous and failing to make a claim upon which relief can be granted”.
  • Motion in support of imposition of the filing fee therefore denying and dismissing the Complainants request for a waiver of said filing fee with prejudice”.

The issue of wider interest in this case is the argument surrounding the second motion and the OAS’s use of the provision in the Administrative Tribunal’s Statute whereby staff members have to pay “a filing fee, a bond, or other legally enforceable security equivalent to one month’s remuneration (salary and post adjustment) […] unless the Secretary General has expressly waived the reconsideration requirement, or unless a Reconsideration Committee […] has found by a majority vote of its members that the person’s claims are meritorious […]” (Article VI.7 of the Statute).  In practice, this means that if the Reconsideration Committee (i.e., an administrative step that applicants must exhaust before bringing their cases before the Tribunal) fails to specify that a case is meritorious (e.g., by being neutral on the subject), a Complainant is forced to pay the fee, which can amount to $10,000 USD.

The Tribunal recalled that the purpose of requesting a filing fee when a complainant is not a staff member was to ensure that the General Secretariat would be able to recover legal fees awarded by the Tribunal against a complainant who has filed a frivolous claim: “It is therefore logical that such filing fee could be waived when it is proved that the claim is meritorious” [18]. Having reviewed the conclusion of the Reconsideration Committee, the Tribunal held that it was impossible to determine whether Mr LaGuerre’s complaint had merit or not for the purposes of waiving the filing fee [24].

In conclusion, the Tribunal held that: “By virtue of the foregoing this Tribunal cannot regard the report of the Reconsideration Committee as an adequate basis to deny Complainant’s request for a filling fee waiver.  Therefore, the Tribunal concluded that, after its review of the pleadings filed thus far in this matter, that there was prima-facie evidence that the Complaint is not frivolous, for purposes of Article VI.7 of the Tribunal Statute” [29].

This is an important case for complainants’ access to justice and ought to dissuade the OAS from arguing a strike out on the basis that the filing fee has not been paid. In the absence of proper analysis by the Reconsideration Committee, complainants ought not to be expected to pay such a fee if their claim is prima facie meritorious.

Find out more

Alex Haines is called to both the English and Irish Bars and is a US-qualified attorney admitted to the NY Bar. He is a dual national, fluent in French and Spanish, specialist in international law and sanctions with rare expertise in international organisations law. He was appointed to the Attorney General’s London B Panel in 2019 and as Sanctions Officer at the Caribbean Development Bank in 2020. The cases he has been instructed in have involved more than 35 International Organisations including the EIB, World Bank Group, IMF, NATO and UN (including its specialised agencies and funds). He is ranked in Chambers and Partners for Sanctions and Legal 500 for Business and Regulatory Crime (including global investigations).

To find out more, contact Sam Carter on +44 (0)203 989 6669 or Colin Bunyan on +44 (0)20 7427 4886 for a confidential discussion.


Victoria Brown is a civil and chancery practitioner with a particular focus on pensions and employment. Victoria also has significant international experience, and has appeared before the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and the Organisation of American States Administrative Tribunal. She has run cases in the Islamic Development Bank AT, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development AT, and International Labour Organisation AT. Victoria was appointed to the Attorney General’s C Panel of Civil Counsel in October 2020 and is recognised by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.

To find out more, contact Matt Sale +44 (0)20 7427 4910 or George Bennett on +44 (0)207 427 0807 for a confidential discussion.

News 2 Dec, 2022

Authors

Alex Haines

Call: 2007 (England & Wales); 2019 (New York); 2020 (Ireland); and 2024 (District of Columbia)

Victoria Brown

Call: 2014

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