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Scottish Courts criticised over ‘vexatious’ rulings as cases show public denied access to justice in challenges against law firms

16 Jun

scslogoScotland’s courts have been criticised for protecting legal firms against challenges by barring clients from courts. A recent addition to the list of vexatious litigants in Scotland, now numbering six people, has drawn attention to the fact that most of the cases on the list appear at some stage, to involve issues relating to the legal profession, with even allegations of interference in the judicial process itself, leading to criticisms today that the Scottish courts are protecting lawyers from challenges by clients who cannot obtain legal representation due to the fact that most lawyers will not take on legal actions against their colleagues.

As the Scotsman reported yesterday, the latest addition to the list of vexatious litigants follows a judgement from Lord Reed in the case of the Lord Advocate v Andrew McNamara, relating to cases raised by the pursuer dating back to 1996.

Among those mentioned, as the Scotsman reports, in the cases brought by Mr McNamara, were Edinburgh legal firm Tods Murray who were suing McNamara for fees, and Glasgow legal firm Levy & McRae, who formerly themselves represented McNamara in his own actions against Tods Murray. The Scotsman goes on to report that the cases grew to involve the former First Minister Henry McLeish – himself forced to resign over secretly renting out his offices to law firm Digby Brown, another Glasgow legal firm – Alexander Stone & Co, and Sheriff Peebles.

The glaring consistency in all those named in the various legal actions, is of course, they are all members of, or have some connection with the legal profession.

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society of Scotland ‘strangely silent’ on public being barred from courts when cases involve challenges to lawyers. A legal insider today alleged that ‘vexatious rulings’, quietly taking place without protest, are damaging public access to justice in Scotland, and appear to be being used by the legal establishment as a last line of defence against people who find themselves unrepresented by counsel solely because their cases, which are often complicated, involve challenges to the legal profession’s way of doing things.

He said “What is glaringly obvious in the list of vexatious litigants on the Scottish Courts website is that most of the cases, the details of which are peculiarly not listed in full to give readers any leads on why such rulings have been applied, seem to have some involvement with the legal profession in some way, such as challenges to fees, poor work, misrepresentation, interference in the judicial process itself, and even involvement with the Law Society of Scotland.”

He went on : “One could easily conclude the courts are closing the door on access to justice for anyone who is challenging a legal firm, and who also find themselves coincidentally lacking legal representation because of an organised boycott against their case by solicitors and the Law Society of Scotland.”

John SwinneyCabinet Chief John Swinney revealed Law Society chiefs ordered solicitors to drop clients. The lack of legal representation of individuals who find themselves the target of ‘vexatious litigant’ rulings appears to be no accident, as Cabinet Secretary John Swinney revealed during a debate in the Scottish Parliament that Law Society chiefs have written to solicitors advising them “to drop clients”, in cases which usually involve solicitors initially representing clients against other legal firms in complicated legal actions, where complaints of negligence, poor service, or falsified fee demands, and corruption against clients have been detected.

The usual pattern of obstruction then develops in that clients find themselves suddenly unrepresented nearing their proof hearings in Court after orders to cease representation are handed out by the Law Society, or as reported in some cases, secret deals are worked out between the legal firms to drop the pursuer a few days before the court case is due to start.

Cabinet Secretary John Swinney reveals Law Society Chief Kenneth Pritchard ordered legal firms to drop clients, leaving them unrepresented in court, like McNamara.

Kenny MacAskillJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ‘should make guidelines’ to Judges on barring people from access to court. An official from a consumer organisation today said that while Scotland has so far escaped using the ruling to bar so many people from the courts, she believed it was time for the Justice Secretary to step in and ensure that members of the public are not being barred from access to the courts simply because their cases involve challenges against ‘crooked lawyers’ or involved claims against other professionals.

He said : “Given the recent ideas of a sentencing council put forward by the Scottish Government in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, I believe it is now appropriate for the Justice Secretary to make strict guidelines to the courts on cases which may be considered vexatious litigation and that it may be time for a review of the Vexatious Actions Act and how it is applied in cases where it appears people are being denied access to justice especially when their case seems to involve problems with the legal profession.”

“It does appear to me that many of the cases so far which have been denied a hearing in the Scottish courts seem to involve problems with the legal profession, and a determination on the part of some that no issue of an unrepresented pursuer’s case receives a fair hearing, for fear of upsetting the balance of power in the Scots legal world which most people now accept is heavily tilted against the consumer by vested interests.”

As the evidence clearly shows, the court has become no place for challenging a crooked legal firm – because everyone in the court, except the client, is a member of the Law Society of Scotland .. even the judge.

A new independent venue must be developed for such cases, as the court has clearly demonstrated time & again it cannot be trusted and cannot be impartial enough in such instances where a client has been maligned by one of their colleagues, to deliver a just verdict while determining exactly the course of events which led to the litigation in the first place.

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