The problems mount for the integrity of the Justice 2 Committee this week, where an FOI request from prominent legal reform campaigner Duncan Shields to the Convener of the Justice 2 Committee – Mr David Davidson MSP (Convener) .. resulted in Mr Davidson hurredly declaring that his son was a solicitor, although by excuse of reading some 600 submissions sent to the Committee … some of which apparently are still awaiting being sent to members due to protests from the Parliament`s own legal team and others ….
The latest conflict of interest for Mr Davidson (J2 Committee Convener) shows that Mr Davidson`s son, Mr Justin Davidson,is a partner in Piper,Rudnick,Gray & Cary, apparently as a partner in their Hong Kong Office although he is based in England, his details as follows : http://www.dlapiper.com/hongkong/people/list.aspx?LastName=D
Piper,Rudnick,Gray & Cary have offices in Scotland and have some 20 Scottish solicitors on their books, which certainly gives their firm an interest in the outcome of the proceedings and recommendations from the Justice 2 Committee for their consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill … so it would appear that yet another member of the J2 Committee is now mired in a conflict of interest position incompatible with their status within this inquiry.
Given the precedent Annabel Goldie set upon her resignation as Convener of the Justice 2 Committee due to her own membership of the Law Society of Scotland as a solicitor, it would appear that Mr Davidson`s position as Convener in this matter is untenable and should be reviewed immediately.
Returning to the debacle surrounding the appointment by the Parliamentary Bureau of Margaret Ross to the position of adviser to the Justice 2 Committee .. there are now allegations that members of the Parliamentary Bureau were deliberately misled over issues surrounding Ms Ross position on matters relating to regulation of the legal profession which might have qualified as a conflict of interest (I speak of course, of her stated support of the continuation of self regulation of the legal profession as operated by the Law Society of Scotland at present and her submission to that effect to the Justice 1 Committee)
The appointment of Margaret Ross has now been referrred to the Corporate Body of the Scottish Parliament … and while that may give some people hope for a recall of her appointment, my own experence with officials of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body would tend to suggest they do as they please, or worse, to suit their friends within other spheres of influence in Scottish public life …. one of those of course, being the Scottish legal profession.
I emailed the members of the Scottish Parliamentary Bureau on this matter, 3 responded to me, Margaret Curran – who informed me the matter was going to the Corporate Body, Bill Aitken, who told me to go to the Justice 2 Committee, and a more complete response from Alisdair Morgan, all of which can be viewed below :
From : Alasdair.Morgan.email@example.com
To : petercherbiSubject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau
Thank you for your e-mail.
The Parliamentary Bureau does not appoint or approve the appointment of committee advisors. It considers requests from committees who wish to go ahead with the recruitment process for an advisor. If that request is agreed to, then the committee goes ahead to consider specific candidates, but the decision as to which, if any, candidate to appoint is for the committee itself.
Certainly this specific appointment raises some issues, though I do not know what considerations the committee took into account when making it. Clearly they will be aware that the adviser may have her own viewpoint on matters and will have to be vigilant in that regard. On a more general note, on many general issues it is often very difficult to find an adviser who is both well qualified and informed, but who has not developed views or interests which lay them open to suspicions of lack of total impartiality.
From: Peter Cherbi
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:08 AM
To: Morgan A (Alasdair), MSP
Subject: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau
I would draw your attention to the Parliamentary Bureau’s appointment of Ms Margaret Ross to the position as Advisor to the Justice 2 Committee for their consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, which will bring independent regulation to the legal profession in Scotland as well as a number of other long awaited improvements.
It has come to my attention, that a conflict of interest in the appointment of Margaret Ross exists in reference to her position and duties as Advisor to the Justice 2 Committee, where she has publicly stated, even in submissions to the Scottish Parliament, that she openly supports self regulation of the legal profession – link to Ms Ross submission on her views regarding the legal profession here : http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice1/inquiries-02/j1-lps-pdfs/lps-056.pdf
As you are a member of the Parliamentary Bureau, I would like to know if you were made aware of Ms Ross’ background prior to considering her appointment for the position of Adviser to the Justice 2 Committee for it’s consideration of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.
Mrs Ross is a member of the Law Society of Scotland, and there has already, as you know, been an example set on this inquiry with Annabel Goldie resigning as Convener of Justice 2 due to a possible conflict of interest position arising where Ms Goldie, also, a member of the Law Society of Scotland, would be placed in a conflict of interest in having to consider the LPLA Bill, which could of course, be to the detriment of the legal profession.
I look forward to hear from you
on behalf of Bill.Aitken.firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary
Dear Mr Cherbi
It is not a matter for the Parliamentary Bureau to consider the person appointed. The Parliamentary Bureau simply agrees to an appointment being made. As such any query you have on this matter should be pursued with the Justice 2 Committee.
From : Margaret.Curran.email@example.com
Subject:RE: Appointment of Margaret Ross by the Parliamentary Bureau
This was raised at the Bureau and will be referred to the Corporate Body as this lies within their control
While these issues of conflict of interest by Committee members and advisers await resolution, the Justice 2 Committee today confirmed to Stewart MacKenzie that he would be able to give oral testimony before the Justice 2 Committee on his dealings and difficulties with the legal profession and particularly, part the Law Society of Scotland plays in fiddling client complaints.
This is a great boost to the rights of clients of solicitors to be able to testify before the parliament, and I wish Stewart wello, being a personal friend and someone who has truly been thorugh the mill when it comes to the complaints system of the Law Society of Scotland.
I think Sterwart MacKenzie`s position was helped greatly by his MSP, John Swinney, who attended this week`s Justice 2 Committee hearing while the Law Society of Scotland were giving evidence, and challenged comments from Caroline Flanagan, the Law Society of Scotland President, who claimed the Law Society does not get involved with the Master Insurance Policy and clients suing solicitors ….
John Swinney challenged Caroline Flanagan`s commengs, producing a secret memo which showed meetings being arranged between Douglas Mill, other Law Society officials and officials of the Master Insurance Policy .. the terms of which could only imply that a concerted effort was being made to thward Mr Mackenzie`s complaints from ever being resolved ….
In this explosive episode within the Justice 2 Committee hearing this week, Douglas Mill sensationaly intervened, seemingly overrulling the Law Society of Scotland`s own President (and reducing her credibility to zero) .. claiming that he was `trying to help Mr Mackenzie` where then John Swinney took on the issue of Stewart MacKenzie`s case even further by informing the J2 Hearing that even now, 5 years after that secret memo the MacKenzie`s claim had not been settled because they could not find legal agents to represent them (suffering the same discrimination the legal profession througout Scotland makes against clients who try to sue a lawyer, or who complain against a lawyer, or who take on the Law Society of Scotland).
Certainly things are hotting up at the Justice 2 Committee hearings, and I will be putting in my own request to be heard …. and as someone the Law Society has tried everything against .. I would welcome the public platform to release some papers of my own which have been kept secret at all costs over the years ….