I must pay tribute to two formidable women of the law who have recently departed this life. The first is Ms Amelia Bessie Carrington, SC. Retired Head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas paid sterling tribute to her in the daily newspapers. There is not much I can add to his accolades which I had the privilege of reading in your edition of the Trinidad Guardian dated August 25, 2020. He ended his tribute with this: “She was, very simply, a lady.”
Mrs Valeria Ortiz Alcala, SC celebrated one hundred and five years and eight months. There was nothing timid about the manner in which she presented her client’s position to a court, regardless of its composition. She was devastatingly composed, measured, and respectfully so.
Mrs Alcala began her legal career at a time when female practitioners were rare. She was indisputably a trailblazer. I was told she was one of the few practitioners who had the “audacity” to appear before a sitting Court of Appeal and intervene on behalf of a client to have an appeal deemed urgent.
Mrs Alcala was always willing to mentor young lawyers and to impart her immeasurable knowledge to them. One of her defining characteristics was that a litigant’s lack of financial resources was no bar to advising them. My husband, Desmond, now deceased, had on divers occasions instructed her on behalf of many unfortunate persons who were unable to afford the “fees of the street.”
I was always fascinated by her thoroughness, her ability to research a legal point and to address all nuanced presentations.
Mrs Alcala was an exemplar. I unhesitatingly describe the life of this venerable centenarian as magnificent. Her generous spirit and kindness must live on. To the female attorneys-at-law, our freedom to associate at the bar and to represent ought not be taken for granted. We are the recipients of a proud tradition of endeavour for which women like Ms Valeria Ortiz Alcala strove fearlessly. To her grieving family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I extend my profound and sincere sympathy.
May she rest in peace, eternally.