They think its all over : Solicitors from Hell owner to appeal High Court’s website shutdown order ‘all the way to Europe if necessary’
Friday, December 09, 2011
It’s not over until the European judges sing : Solicitors from Hell owner will appeal High Court order to close website after the ‘suffering’ of lawyers. IN RESPONSE to the publication of MR JUSTICE TUGENDHAT’s written ruling in the case of The Law Society, Hine Solicitors & Kevin McGrath v Rick Kordowski which granted the vested interests of the legal profession in England & Wales their demand to shut down the critical website known as SOLICITORS FROM HELL where clients could posts online reviews of their experiences with solicitors, Mr Kordowski, the owner of the now censored Solicitors from Hell website has said he intends to appeal the draconian judgement “all the way to Europe if necessary”.
The judgement, dubbed by many as a blistering attack on free speech and the rights of consumers to express their views on services provided to them by their lawyers details in no uncertain terms the lengths to which the vested interests of the legal profession of England & Wales ‘had gone after’ Mr Kordowski.
In one part of the judgement, Mr Justice Tugendhat brands the Solicitors from Hell website owner as “A public nuisance” who “is in effect a vexatious litigant”. Readers of the judgement will note there is not one single remark in the judge’s opinion which appears to be critical of the legal profession.
As Justice Tugendhat’s judgement continues , the Law Society of England & Wales Counsel, Mr Tomlinson states that the Claimants and in particular, the First Claimant, have no objection to proper criticism of the legal profession or debate about whether a particular solicitor has failed to provide service of appropriate quality in a particular case. Informed debate on these issues is clearly in the public interest and a proper exercise of the right to freedom of expression. But he submits that the Website makes no contribution whatever to such debates but instead sets out to and does provide a forum for the publication of malicious and defamatory allegations about solicitors. The Website operates against the public interest and the Claimants have brought this action with the aim of ensuring that it ceases operation. The Law Society is concerned about the enormous reputational damage that is, and can be, done to firms and lawyers as a result of their being listed on the Website. It is also concerned about the disservice to the public. The dissemination of misinformation to members of the public through the Website may deter members of the public from instructing good solicitors.
However, most see the Law Society’s claims against the Solicitors from Hell website as little more than an attempt to censor consumers online debate of how they have been treated by their lawyers, whether good or bad. The legal profession in general are firmly against clients being able to “name & shame” their solicitors in any venue, and have been known to threaten newspapers who carry reports of “crooked lawyers” with legal action or the withdrawal of advertising. In several well known instances in Scotland, individual journalists have had their careers threatened if they did not cease reporting on “crooked lawyers”.
Diary of Injustice earlier this year revealed the Law Society hoped to use its battle with Solicitors from Hell to dissuade the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) from going ahead with its own policy of naming & shaming “crooked lawyers”, reported by Diary of Injustice here : English, Scots Law Societies ‘team up’ in legal moves against “Solicitors from Hell” in bid to stop Legal Ombudsman ‘Naming & Shaming’ crooked lawyers. However the attempt failed, after the LeO announced naming & shaming is to begin in 2012 reported earlier here : Scots to be ‘kept in dark’ on details of crooked lawyers while Legal Ombudsman’s ‘naming & shaming’ policy ‘will protect’ consumers in England & Wales
In what some may see as a spiteful move against Mr Kordowski, who has been made bankrupt by the legal profession in their pursuit of him, the judgement also revealed the trustee in bankruptcy had also gone after the solicitors from hell website domain and all its contents, gaining an interim injunction to prevent Mr Kordowski handing over the website to someone else to operate.
Quoting Mr Justice Tugendhat’s ruling : As a result of the Defendant’s bankruptcy the intellectual property rights in the Website and its contents are vested in his trustee in bankruptcy, but he has not taken any steps to transfer them. Rather, on 2 November 2011, he announced that he had decided to “give the website away” to “experienced owners who operate overseas”. The Claimants successfully applied for an interim injunction to restrain this transfer on the basis that it would constitute unlawful data processing and harassment. An interim injunction was granted by Langstaff J restraining the transfer (“the Transfer Injunction”), returnable at this hearing.
The full judgement in the case can be read here : The Law Society, Hine Solicitors & Kevin McGrath v Rick Kordowski
Speaking to Diary of Injustice, Mr Kordowski said : “The judgment contains claims that both the second and third Claimants had long suffered significant damage, upset and could not work who the author of the published allegations were. It is interesting to note that neither of these Claimants ever asked me who the author of the posted allegations were. No letters, emails, nothing! As to why they continued to allegedly ‘suffer’ in the way for many months without contacting the publisher, one can only imagine.”
Mr Kordowski continued : “My argument was (and still is) that the current libel laws are sufficient to protect the defamed. However, Justice Tugendhat states that even if I could prove that every single listing was true and justified or of honest opinion that harassment & data protection laws supersede the current libel laws. Which is quite simply outrageous.”
“He [Justice Tugendhat] states that I am someone who ‘STILL attempts to charge lawyers if they want comments to be removed’. He didn’t have any evidence to back this up – as there is no evidence. I do not charge lawyers. Justice Tugendhat also goes on to say that I am a ‘Public Nuisance’ like an environmental hazard!”
“I will appeal, which will be thrown out, obviously. So it seems that both I and the public will not get justice in this country. I will most definitely take this matter to the European Court in Strasbourg. The High Courts decision is simply tyranny – we are not in China, Iran or an African despot, this is the democratic UK!”
Not all lawyers welcomed the terms of the written ruling which shut down Solicitors from Hell, with one solicitor branding the decision as “costly, unbalanced and in the long run, counterproductive to the interests of the legal profession at large”
COWBOYSOLICITORS.COM, a new website to allow consumers to rate their lawyer online. While the battle for Solicitors From Hell looks set to continue all the way to the European Courts, a host of new websites offering consumers the chance to air their views of how they were served by their legal representatives have emerged, the latest one being COWBOYSOLICITORS.COM. The new website, which is free to become a member of, states Solicitors have ruled the roost for far too long, the law society is completely bias against any complaints. The truth is that many UK legal practices are filth ridden and need exposing. Become a free member and start shaming your solicitor within minutes. Manage all listings from your personalized dashboard.
Solicitors from Hell 2 has returned to replace the original Solicitors from Hell website. The new Solicitors from Hell 2 website which is registered in the USA, and is thus outwith the reach of UK Libel laws, replaces the now censored Solicitors from Hell. As before, clients can rate their solicitors and document their experiences whether good or bad although this time, it may be more difficult for the Law Society to act. The new website states : Solicitors From Hell 2 will allow people to upload articles about Solicitors from within the UK or anywhere else in the world this will be done automatically & free of charge. Should a complaint arise we will require evidence to substantiate your complaint. or the removal of the offending post or words will take place. This will be at the sole discretion of Solicitors From Hell 2 editors. Further should anyone claim that any item is defamatory and can prove the information wrong then the post will be removed free of charge.
So those of you looking for an opportunity to name & shame your poorly performing or even crooked lawyer, there is now even more choice to do so, courtesy of the Law Society’s attack on UK consumers right of free speech.