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Bitter feud between solicitors regulators as Law Society of Scotland take Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to Court of Session over complaints role

22 Apr

SLCC LAW SOCIETYLaw Society of Scotland in legal dispute with Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. As revealed earlier this week in reports of Ministerial interference with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, apparently ordered by the Law Society of Scotland to secure a decrease in the annual complaints levy solicitors are forced to pay for complaints regulation, the Law Society of Scotland have taken legal action in at least four instances against the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Fergus Ewing low resCommunity Safety Minister Fergus Ewing would rather the SLCC’s £1.5 million surplus be paid to lawyers instead of being used to stem public services cuts in the community. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have released limited details of the cases, by way of comments responding to the Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing’s intervention directly on behalf of the Law Society in the budget dispute, which saw Mr Ewing go on to threaten the independence of the SLCC should it not comply with the Law Society’s wishes to lower the complaints levy.

The battle over the complaints levy began when the SLCC revealed it had a huge £1.5 million cash surplus, which consumer groups and politicians are now calling to be paid back to the public purse to cover the commission’s £2 million start up costs. Meanwhile the Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing is, curiously in favour of seeing the SLCC’s £1.5 million go back into the pockets of his colleagues in the legal profession, rather than help keep afloat public & community services across Scotland.

However, the Law Society are keen to counter any moves to pay back the money to taxpayers, and have opted for a combination of legal action, political intimidation and a public campaign by some of the Scottish legal profession’s more widely known, wider-mouth personalities against the very existence of the SLCC, hoping to force the Commission to refund lawyers the £1.5 million instead repaying the public purse to fund services such as health, education, justice, or community services.

Jane IrvineJane Irvine revealed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission faces costly legal action from the Law Society. From the SLCC’s media release of earlier this week. Jane Irvine, the SLCC’s Chair said : “Every new complaints body faces an early tranche of appeals over the first 3-5 years of its operation as powers are tested, and currently we are dealing with four Court of Session appeals, lodged by the Law Society of Scotland, under which the Law Society infers that they do not wish to investigate these particular conduct issues.

Jane Irvine continued : “We must have sufficient reserves to defend legal actions and to be in a position to balance the strength of the legal profession as it raises appeals against the lesser strength of consumers, who will raise fewer appeals. We already know the SLCC is facing significant legal costs and, depending on the outcome of these appeals, we may need to change how the SLCC operates.

The Law Society itself will not release comment on their legal action against the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

A listing of the cases and their hearings so far, appear from the rolls of the Court of Session as follows :

Law Society of Scotland v Scottish Legal Complaints Commission :

Wednesday 24 June 2009 (Single Bills Extra Division) 3 Law Society of Scotland (represented by Balfour & Manson LLP) for leave against a decision of the SLCC.

Friday 13 November 2009 (Single Bills Extra Division) 19 Debbie Williams (Macbeth Currie & Co) for leave to appeal SLCC

Friday 11 December 2009 (Single Bills Extra Division) 3 Law Society of Scotland (represented by Balfour & Manson LLP) for leave v SLCC

Friday 8 January 2010 (Inner House Rolls Second Extra Division) 1 XA129/09 James McCann (represented by Balfour & Manson LLP) v Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (represented by Shepherd & Wedderburn)

Tuesday 26 January 2010 (Single Bills Extra Division) 4 Debbie Williams (Macbeth Currie & Co) for leave to appeal SLCC

Friday 12 February 2010 (Single Bills Extra Division) 1 Law Society of Scotland (represented by Simpson & Marwick) for Leave to Appeal decision of the SLCC

Tuesday 2 March 2010 (Single Bills Extra Division) 4 Law Society of Scotland (represented by Balfour & Manson LLP) for leave to appeal decision of SLCC.

Wednesday 24 March 2010 (Single Bills Extra Division) 2 Law Society of Scotland (represented by Balfour & Manson LLP) against a decision of the SLCC (represented by Shepherd & Wedderburn).

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