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Naming & shaming crooked lawyers is criminal ? Law Society of England & Wales Chief Des Hudson to face legal action from Solicitors From Hell owner over “criminal” jibe

12 Sep

SFH vLaw Society of England & Wales Chief Des Hudson is accused of branding owner of critical website “a criminal” for naming crooked lawyers. THE LIMITS of what the UK’s ‘control freak’ legal profession will stand or even allow in terms of public criticism have taken a new twist after information emerged on a Law Professor’s blog detailing a conversation in which Des Hudson the £400K-A-YEAR Chief Executive of the Law Society of England & Wales is alleged to have branded Mr Rick Kordowski “A CRIMINAL” for his SOLICITORS FROM HELL website’s consumer reviews of poor solicitors & criticisms of solicitors. In response, Mr Korwowski, the owner of the increasingly well known UK based website which names & shames crooked lawyers from all across the UK, has announced he is to sue Des Hudson for defamation, seeking “substantial damages”.

The incident came to light after the Law Society Chief Executive took part in a joint interview with well known Law Professor John Flood of the University of Westminster on BBC Radio FOUR’s consumer programme You and Yourswhich discussed the Solicitors From Hell website and its policy of naming & shaming lawyers who fail their clients by allowing consumers to write their own reviews of how they were treated by their solicitors. The interview with Des Hudson & John Flood can be heard in full HERE.

After the interview had taken place, Professor Flood wrote on his web blog in an article dated 22 July 2011 : “As I came out of the BBC yesterday with Des Hudson, the chief executive of the Law Society, he said Rick Kordowski was a criminal. I reminded Des that the police didn’t think so. He wasn’t happy.”

The battle by Mr Kordowski to keep the Solicitors From Hell website inline in the face of a coordinated campaign by the legal profession in England & Wales who appear to be out to personally ruin him for his website’s publication of criticisms the legal profession and allowing consumers to write their own views of their poor experiences in the legal world, can be read in more detail on the Solicitors From Hell website HERE and in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday newspaper HERE

Rick Kordowski, writing on his website revealed the Law Society have also demanded he surrender the domain name “Solicitors From Hell”. He wrote : “During negotiations, I offered to re-engineer my website to The Law Society’s specifications and parameters at my expense. The Law Society rejected this offer and further added: “A pre-requisite will be that the site in its current form – with all its content/postings – is taken down forthwith. You will also need to surrender the domain name [……] If not then there is no point pursuing discussions further and the matter is best left for the High Court. And then sent me a letter of claim insisting that I shut down this site and promise not to do it again. “

Mr Kordowski added : “Tyranny at work, springs to mind! Why should The Law Society stifle public criticism of allegedly shoddy lawyers? Are the public too stupid even to have the right to criticise, as The Law Society seem to be suggesting?”

john-floodProfessor John Flood, Professor of Law an Sociology at the University of Westminster. Speaking to Diary of Injustice today, Professor Flood commented on the Law Society of England & Wales battle against Solicitors From Hell. He said : “What I can say is that the Law Society should be thinking about the clients who feel so aggrieved that they are compelled to write to SfH. That to pursue Rick Kordowski is to shoot the messenger rather than deal with the substantive issues in the complaints.”

He continued : “Lawyers must realise there is a new culture present, one that is less adversarial, one that is focussed on resolution, as the Legal Ombudsman is trying to show. I’m not sure the Law Society has fully grasped this.”

Last week, I reported the legal profession’s battle against Rick Kordowski & Solicitors From Hell, here : English, Scots Law Societies ‘team up’ in legal moves against “Solicitors from Hell” in bid to stop Legal Ombudsman ‘Naming & Shaming’ crooked lawyers after an investigation in Scotland turned up discussions at the Law Society of Scotland who were keen to support moves to kill off Solicitors From Hell in a joint attempt with the Law Society of England & Wales to ‘scare off’ the Legal Ombudsman’s intentions to identify poorly performing solicitors & law firms in published complaints decisions & investigations.

Crucially, consumer group Which? & the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) both said the court action against Solicitors From Hell would probably not be going ahead if the Legal Ombudsman had already begun naming & shaming law firms who fail their clients. The Legal Ombudsman has held a consultation on naming & shaming solicitors & law firms but has yet to make a decision on going ahead with the policy, which is supported by consumer groups, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) & the UK Government which I reported on in an earlier, article, HERE.

Which logoConsumer group Which? gave their comments on the LeO’s plans to identify crooked lawyers in England & Wales. A spokesperson for Which? said : “Which? strongly supports the principle of the LeO publishing complaints data under a strict and published policy , including in some circumstances the name of the law firm concerned. We set out our position in our response to the LeO consultation (page 51: opening up regulatory data)) pointing out that it is the expectation of Government that complaints handling bodies are as transparent as possible.”

Asked for their comment on allegations the legal action against Solicitors from Hell was part of a plan by the Law Society of England & Wales to prevent the Legal Ombudsman from naming & shaming ‘crooked lawyers’, the Which? spokesperson said : “The action being taken against Solicitors from Hell by the Law Society is partly due, in our view, to the fact that LeO does not yet publish complaints data. We consider it far more sensible that complaints data is published under a clear policy framework by an ombudsman scheme. Given this, we would find it regretful if any legal action were to be brought against the LeO by the legal profession in England & Wales if “naming & shaming” is to be adopted by the LeO as a future policy.”

Legal Services Consumer PanelSpeaking on the LeO’s plans to publish complaints data & the identities of law firms who perform poorly for clients, Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP), said : “Research shows that UK consumers are now leaving well over 100 million comments online every year about their experience with businesses across the economy. Lawyers cannot escape this welcome emergence of consumer power, but instead should seek and then use such feedback to improve the service they offer.

She continued : “The courts will decide the fate of the Solicitors From Hell website. However, such websites fill a vacuum that exists because official complaints data about lawyers is not publically available to help consumers identify good quality lawyers. The Panel will continue to push the Legal Ombudsman to name those law firms who regularly provide poor service.”

CRIMINALISING CRITICS : Law Society of Scotland official told journalist : “Anyone who criticises the legal profession must be a criminal and should be treated like a criminal”.

The sentiments apparently expressed by Mr Hudson who attempts to criminalise Mr Kordowski and critics of the legal profession are startlingly similar to opinions expressed in Scotland by the most senior officials at the Law Society of Scotland, individual solicitors, law firms and the Legal Defence Union, who have all attempted to close down critical websites naming & shaming crooked lawyers who are still working and whose clients are unaware of their poor records as solicitors.

In one of several examples of over-the-top attacks on critics of the legal profession, notes taken by a journalist working for a Scottish newspaper revealed a senior Law Society of Scotland figure made a variety of bitter, hate-fuelled remarks against critics, in one, expressing : “Anyone who criticises the legal profession must be a criminal and should be treated like a criminal”.

Leslie CummingLeslie Cumming, former Law Society Chief Accountant – His assault was used by Law Society of Scotland officials in attempts to censor, imprison critics of legal profession in Scotland. In another example, involving the attack on former Law Society Chief Accountant Leslie Cumming, senior Law Society figures including Douglas Mill blamed websites including “Diary of Injustice” (which was only two weeks old at the time) for the attack on Mr Cumming, with Scotland on Sunday reporting in an article dated 29 January 2006 : “Senior figures in the Law Society have made it known they feel some of the websites criticising lawyers are tantamount to incitement to violence.”

An insider who had knowledge of the Scotland on Sunday story and how it was developing confessed the direct comments from Law Society officials “were too strong to put into the final version which appeared in the newspaper”. A journalist who was privately briefed by senior Law Society officials including former Chief Executive Douglas Mill who was forced to resign after a well known episode at the Scottish Parliament, described some comments from Law Society officials which are confirmed in notes, as “highly defamatory”. He went onto say “I felt I was being set up to write a piece implicating critics of lawyers in the attack.”

Further reports in the media linked the attack on Leslie Cumming to crooked lawyers within the Law Society itself who feared Mr Cumming’s department ‘were onto them’, however the hunt for the attacker was scaled down after several years had passed without an arrest.

Later, journalists working on the case discovered spurious statements were provided to Lothian & Borders Police by Law Society officials who were eager to blame outspoken critics of the legal profession in Scotland. The rumour was the Law Society of Scotland wanted the Police to silence those who exposed ‘crooked lawyers’. Evidence of these comments & statements have recently been provided to those who were targeted by the Law Society in this way, and journalists looking further into the case have reported a relative of Mr Cumming was a serving officer in Lothian & Borders Police.

Several Scottish newspapers reported earlier this year an individual has since been arrested for the attack on Mr Cumming however no further reporting on the case can be made at this time due to contempt of court laws. The accused is due to face a trial in October 2011.

Given I know what kind of pressure, tricks, threats, and indeed connections the legal profession will be using against “Solicitors From Hell”, may I extend my best wishes and support to Rick Kordowski for his exemplary effort in bringing the issue & discussion of criticism of the legal profession into the mainstream media and for the continued existence of “Solicitors From Hell” and the consumers right to exactly document for themselves their experiences, whether good or bad, at the hands of the legal profession throughout the entire UK.

At least in England & Wales, the debate is live, while here in Scotland, there are no moves to name & shame crooked lawyers where all discussion of it appears to be censored by the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

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