May 2011 Volume 8

Oliver A. Smith—Looms Large at the Manatt /Dudus Commission of Enquiry.

Basil Waite
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Oliver yuh large oh, and yuh name gone abroad oh.

Described by Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne as "razor-sharp" and "surgical," and by Nation Wide's Emily Crooks as "erudite', Oliver Smith operates a multi-jurisdictional law practice based in the Turks & Caicos Islands and the State of New York which sees him travelling to other countries in the Caribbean with his intention to finally return to practice back in Jamaica where it all started.

"It always feels good to be honored at home," says the father of two in response to Boyne's comments which appeared in an article about the Manatt-Dudus Commission of Enquiry, where Smith represented the island's Solicitor-General Douglas Leys. "The enquiry brought together the brightest stars of Jamaica's legal galaxy. To be able to spark in that luminous atmosphere required many things, one of them being a recommitment to the values enshrined in the KC motto: Fortis Cadere Cedere, Non Potest."

The three-man Commission of Enquiry was set up by Prime Minister Golding to look into the government's handling of the extradition request for former Tivoli Gardens strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Although he was one of the lead counsels for the celebrated Olint's David Smith (no relation) and his wife in the Application to Discharge Restraint Order in the Turks and Caicos High Court, not many Jamaicans took notice of Oliver A. Smith. That was until he ripped, clobbered and somewhat damaged the credibility of Ambassador Evadney Coye on the second morning of his cross-examination of the witness at the Manatt Enquiry held at the Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. As the Commission of Enquiry progressed, Smith's stock rose and his name became a household word alongside such luminaries as KD Knight, Hugh Small and Frank Phipps. The practicing attorney for 20 years – who personally handled more 1,500 cases – then had the entire country waiting with bated breath as he dropped a bombshell about an email Attorney General and Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne is purported to have authorized to Harold Brady updating him about a meeting at the US Department of Justice in September 2009.

Many are now asking, "Who is Oliver Smith?"
Oliver attended Rousseau Primary School where, under the stern direction and guidance of Ms. Thompson, he was successful in the then "Common Entrance" examination and entered Kingston College. Coming from 29B Australia Road, a tenement yard in Waterhouse via Rousseau Primary to Melbourne Park was a refreshingly, frightening challenge.

"It was the first time I was meeting and interacting with people from 'uptown' and there was an initial period of self-imposed intimidation," Smith said. "I was meeting students who actually flew on airplanes and went to places outside the country. Students who would talk about stuff like pizza and it took me awhile to understand what that was. KC was the original melting pot. Somehow I ended up in the 'A' stream and walked the same classrooms with one of Jamaica's most brilliant minds, Stephen Vascianne." He would invite his classmates to his house in Meadowbrook on weekends to play Table Tennis and to just hang out. For me, these visits were crucial to my social education and I am not sure if he was aware of the impact it had on me". Two of Oliver's other younger siblings, Fitzroy and Errol, also entered the College and served honorably as Fortisans.

It was at Melbourne that Oliver was selected for the Chapel Choir and was a member for more than 9 years.

"Being in the choir was one of the most enlightening and beneficial experiences that I had at KC. I got an introduction to choral and classical music that has added to my growth and development as an individual. Moreover it allowed me to travel to the various parishes in Jamaica and from that, we as young men were able to see the island's myriad beauty. I am not sure if we appreciated it then though."

"KC was in fact a refuge for me and I later found out that I was not alone. I was having a conversation recently with Joseph McKinson who grew up in Arnett Gardens and played on KC's 1975 Triple Champion Football Team and he shared the same view. It was a safe haven for us and an institution that exposed us to more than just book knowledge; it embraced and clothed us with self-confidence and the belief that we lacked but which when presented to us, we readily grabbed and it has served us well as we moved forward in life."

After leaving KC, Oliver was indecisive about his next move. He worked for a year as a proof reader in the Printing Unit of the then known Department of Statistics.

"I applied to the Law Faculty at the UWI, not because I wanted to pursue law, but it was the only faculty that was still accepting applications at the time I decided to go to University," said Smith. After graduating from the Norman Manley Law School, Oliver worked in the chambers of brothers Richard and Hugh Small before deciding to try his luck in the chilly climes of New York.

"New York was a challenge. Passing the Bar Examination did not guarantee a job as Norman Manley Law School was not considered an 'American Bar Association-approved law school' so finding employment by the traditional route was virtually impossible," he explained. "After almost a year of looking I landed a job with a solo practitioner who after one week told me that he can no longer afford me. He instead offered that I could remain in the office rent-free for six months and do my own thing." This translated into a moderately successful practice in New York.

Smith, who is a regular contributor the New York Law Journal and a frequent lecturer on Legal Ethics and Criminal Law, is a Member of the International Criminal Court Defense Panel in the Hague, Netherlands, and a former Member of the Departmental Disciplinary Committee of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division for New York County and the Bronx. Between 1988 and 1997, he was a partner in the Wall Street firm of Dunn & Smith, whose clients included The New York City Transit Authority, The New York State Insurance Fund and Chase Manhattan Bank. He is a Partner in the Turks and Caicos law firm of Stanfield Greene where he is primarily responsible for the firm's litigation practice.

"Whatever success I may have is simply a reflection of the teachers I have had along the way: Miss Thompson at Rousseau Primary, Mrs. Reid and Mrs. Riley at Kingston College, and Dennis Morrison at the Norman Manley Law School. And I would be remiss if I did mention my children, Olivia and Iiana. They keep me grounded. To them I am not a lawyer, I am simply Dad. This to me is the most important job in the world."

Oliver also served for two years ('94-'95) as secretary of the KCOBA New York Chapter under Robert Kelly who recalled him as "one who bought into the Chapter's Scholarship programme and indeed continues to sponsor students at KC and the university to this day."

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