As a long-time practitioner of Family Law, there are moments which stick in your mind, for one reason or another. Many years back, noting I’m qualified over 35 years, I was involved in a very sad Child Custody case.
My client, the husband, had separated from his wife when their only child, a beautiful daughter, was very young. She was now eight years old. He had moved abroad for work and his daughter lived with him since she was a baby. The wife unfortunately had suffered for many years from depression and on occasions, was institutionalised. They still kept in touch and from time to time, he travelled back so that his wife could spend some time with her daughter.
Unfortunately, on one such visit home, the family of his estranged spouse decided to pressurize the child’s mother into hiding the child and when he arrived to collect her at 6pm as agreed, neither the wife nor his daughter could be found. He was traumatized and the next day arrived at my office to instruct me in the case. We wasted no time in issuing proceedings and made an emergency application to the Court to have the matter dealt with. Our investigations had revealed the location of both the mother and child.
On the morning of the hearing, evidence was heard by the learned Judge who decided to that an early date for hearing was warranted and listed the case to come back before him in 5 weeks time. This was agreeable, although inconvenient for my client as he had to inform his employers, who thankfully, were accommodating. The matter of access was discussed and the Judge then decided that he was giving the father No Access, despite the fact that the child lived full-time with him ; that he had sole custody ; and the mother was not a fit person to look after the child, due to her recurring illness. It was her family that had in fact assumed custody of the child, not her. Needless to say we were infuriated with the Judges decision. Despite our endeavours there was no moving him. I then stood up and angrily stormed out of Court followed closely by my client. I was horrified when he asked me was it usual for a Judge to tell a solicitor to F Off ! Needless to say I was horrified as I had not heard the remark. I took a deep breath, composed myself and both myself and counsel headed straight up to the High Court and informed the presiding Judge of what had happened, bar the comment. He wisely ordered daily access for my client from midday until 6pm until the case was heard.
When the case finally came back before the aforementioned Judge, he shouted out ‘Who appealed my Order ?’ Then he took a look at me and said ‘You, huh, doesn’t surprise me.’ He then went on to hear the case in full and rightly returned the child into the custody of the father. When we exited the courtroom the wife let out a cry which brought tears to my eyes. Regardless of the fact that justice was served that day, Child Custody cases are traumatic, not only for the parties involved, but also for the lawyers.
LegalEagleStar Tuesday 3rd. November 2015.
I qualified as a Solicitor in 1980. At that time, cases were heard before a Judge and Jury. Following strong lobbying from the Insurance Industry, Juries in personal injury cases were abolished. The Insurance Industry lobbyists thought that with cases being heard by Judges alone, that awards would be reduced. This in turn would help to boost the vast profits in the industry. I remember going before the Courts when the Michaelmas term commenced, fearing that my clients would suffer loss as a result of the interference in the Court System by such a strong lobby. As it turned out, Mr Justice Hamilton, in the High Court in Dublin sat on the first few cases and in fact doubled the awards that had been heretofore been awarded. A 12 month whiplash injury which up until then we could expect the sum of 15,000 Irish Punts, he awarded 30,000 ! Other Judges followed his lead. The Courts decided that in fact, Juries were not particularly generous and that awards needed to be raised in order for the injured parties to receive the appropriate compensation for their injuries.
Let us jump ahead in time to the introduction by the Irish Government of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. This State Board would in fact replace the Courts. They would decide on what was fit and proper compensation. As the Large Insurance Companies had the ear of the Government Ministers, they felt that the Judges could not be trusted. This Scheme was introduced as a ‘Lawyer Free Zone’. They were taking the whole Personal Injury area from the hands of what they termed the ‘greedy lawyers’. Thankfully, following a successful challenge in the Courts, they had to relinquish on this point. Nonetheless, it is mandatory to press all cases into PIAB. You then wait for many months until your case is decided on. This is a closed Government System. It is only when an award is made, or indeed the case ‘released’ by The Injuries Board, that you are in a position to bring your case before the Courts.
Back in 1980, lawyers were banned from advertising. The norm was for an injured person to present themselves at the offices of the Insurance Company they had a claim against. You literally went in the front door and took a ticket and remained in line until your number was reached. You then had to fight to have them deal with your case. Many visits later you’d most likely be worn down and take whatever they offered you, in order to bring an end to this stressful situation. In the last 1980’s, following pressure from the Restrictive Practices Commission, advertising by lawyers was permitted. Much to the disgust, I can recall, of the Law Society, who regulate the Solicitors Profession. I was one of the first solicitors to embrace this advertising, by Radio, TV, Golden Pages and other legitimate means. This resulted in injured clients calling us at Early & Baldwin. Our caseload increased. Clients no longer queued up, took a ticket and waited. We looked after them from the moment they called us. There was a seismic change in the way injured people were treated. This freedom to advertise, coupled with the compensation that Judges were awarding, ensured that people were justly rewarded.
Needless to say, the Insurance Industry were not happy with developments. There followed a new Act to curb advertising by solicitors. No longer could you promote yourself as a personal injury lawyer nor indeed ‘encourage’ people to pursue their claims. This would be deemed an offence which the solicitor would find himself/herself in deep water with the Law Society. So today, we have restrictions on advertising by Personal Injury Solicitors, coupled with a State body, The Injuries Board deciding on awards. Now, the Insurance Industry are happy. You’d never know it of course, as they conceal their massive profits and complain still about ‘fraudulent claims and suchlike. Let’s be clear about it. No solicitor will knowingly take on a fraudulent case. This is a criminal matter. The use of the term by the Insurance Industry is for one thing and one thing only. That is, to scare people into not pursuing their legitimate claims.
We at Early & Baldwin believe that as lawyers, we represent our clients to the best of our ability and despite the restrictions imposed at the behest of the Insurance Companies, it is our belief that our clients deserve Respect and Justice and we will continue to demand it on their behalf. While we are not alone amongst our profession in holding these views, we urge all solicitors involved in working with plaintiff claimants to demand the same for their clients. Don’t accept anything less as all our clients deserve as much.
LegalEagleStar, Tuesday 28th. July 2015
Yesterday on Twitter I received the following Tweet ….
I replied ….
@thesecondgoing Mass Civil Disobedience !
As a lawyer, I have been criticised by many, in particular fellow lawyers, regarding the stance I’ve taken with regard to the Right2Water Campaign. This is a Citizen led Movement which has arisen as a result of the Irish Governments attempt to privatize our water, regardless of how hollow the rejection of this claim is, by the Elites who run this country. I have taken to the streets and marched Shoulder to Shoulder with my fellow Citizens and am proud to do so. While many people cannot afford to pay the proposed charges being imposed on us, a lot can. Luckily I am one of those that can. There is a principle at stake here. Austerity measures dictated by the IMF, the European Central Bank and others and imposed on the Irish People in order to pay the gambling debts of the Elites, their Bankers and Speculators are, in my opinion, immoral. Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay are what the banners say. They could read Can Pay, Won’t Pay and they would be as correct. People have said ‘Enough is enough’. The question is, am I correct in advocating a Don’t Pay policy?
I have read a lot about Civil Disobedience. Is it morally, if not legally correct? I came across the following…
I am inclined to agree with Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence (1776). Justice, surely has to play a role in our thinking. As lawyers we are trained to use the law to benefit our fellow citizens. When the law is unjust, we try to use the legal system to protect our clients. Our Courts on a regular basis try to mitigate the harshness of the law and find an interpretation which protects the citizen. What about when one political ideology in power attempts to subjugate the citizens to their point of view? We are told that we live in a democracy and the will of the people is demonstrated by the Ballot Box. In 2011 the Irish People Voted for Change. They ousted the Fianna Fail Government and replaced them with the two parties that advocated change, namely Fine Gael and The Irish Labour Party. While in opposition and prior to the General Election, both of these Parties talked the talk but as it turned out, they did not walk the walk and indeed the Irish People were subjected to the same policies that the previous hated Government had implemented. Sadly, even more austerity was heaped on the citizen. The most vulnerable in society, the young, the old, sick and the poor were particularly targeted by the ruthless implementation of austerity. People suffered as a result and indeed are still suffering to this very day. The new government claim that they were given a mandate by the people and are refusing to relinquish power. They say they intend to stay the full course. Is this democracy in action?
Democracy… government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. So in theory that is what we have.
While we’re deemed a Democratic State why are people in Ireland today so discontent? Something is wrong. They are not being listen to. Despite marching on the streets to demonstrate their opposition they are being fobbed off with our Government playing politics. Those in power are, in my opinion, not following an agenda on behalf of the citizens who voted them in. Instead they are following the dictates of the EU and other like-minded institutions whose agenda is somewhat different. Perhaps something is fundamentally wrong ….
While I have quoted from a Justice of the American Supreme Court, I feel that the same is equally relevant in the Irish context. The Irish Government panders to the will of those with great wealth to the detriment of the citizen, thus sadly creating a sub-class in our society, to which the vast majority now belong.
Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA
It’s to be noted that lawyers have headed protest against injustice in many countries throughout the world. They have led the people. In Ireland today, it appears that we only hit the headlines when huge fees are concerned. This is unfair. I recognise those firms who act for the Elites but the vast majority of the legal profession are of the people and stand up for their rights. Individually, lawyers do have a moral conscience. Unfortunately that is not reflected in the media nor indeed, in my opinion, in the representative bodies who I feel should be questioning the legality of bailing out bondholders and banks and suchlike. True leadership should be shown. It has been left to #Ballyhea and other protest groups to continue the fight against Government Austerity policies which go to bail out the rich at the expense of the poor. In the past the Trade Union Movement lead the citizen in protesting injustice. Sadly today the major Union #SIPTU are so closely associated with the Labour Party that their silence is deafening. Without the likes of Ballyhea, this whole sorry chapter in Irish society would not have a voice of protest.
So, as a lawyer am I advocating breaking the law by supporting a No Pay to Water Charges? Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that. I will continue to support my fellow citizens in their fight against an unjust law. I am proud to be associated with such good people.
Finally, I think it worthwhile watching Matt Damon, a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn and his family, read excerpts from a speech Howard Zinn gave in 1970 as part of a debate on civil disobedience.
Poster courtesy of Arcturus Blackhorn
LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 6th. January , 2015.
A day doesn’t go by without us being bombarded by Apps. Sign up and get a free App for your iPhone. We have more Apps on our phones than we can use. Sure they may be handy at some stage in the future i.e. next week !
Over the past while, I’ve been horrified that many people, lawyers included, are saying ‘I’ve an App for that’… when discussing the law. Yes, I admit, some are educational but I am referring to those that are advocating that you can look after your own divorce, house sale or purchase and other such important matters which hugely impact on your life. Why go to College and study law; then spend time in a Law School to get your Practicing Certificate? Well according to these geniuses, no need at all. Sure save your money and use the App. They ask you why you are wasting money on these legal professionals when you can just use their App. Unfortunately, it would appear that many people are being taken in by this dangerous nonsense.
While I for one respect newly qualified lawyers, whether they be at the Bar or from the Law Society, they have their place in the overall legal framework. What most don’t have, is experience. That is only gained from many years of practice in their chosen fields. This experience is what comes into play when taking on a case for a client. The client deserves to go to law with experienced lawyers who have their interests solely at heart. Most spend many hours working up the case for their client and the full weight of their experience is called into play. Every client is unique. Their circumstances are not like any others. There may be similarities e.g. they have four children and have been married for twenty years. But that is where the similarity ends. To act as though two cases are the same would, in my opinion, equate to nothing short of professional negligence.
But I cannot afford thousands of pounds to employ a lawyer, or a team of lawyers as can be the case. Well, you cannot afford not to. How much did you spend on your wedding? That was a big event and a very important day for you. You spent what you could to celebrate in style. Yes, later you cut back on some items, but you didn’t do without what was important on the day. Well, your divorce costs should be thought of in similar terms. I am not suggesting you go to one of the Big Law Firms. They have access to the same Family Law Barristers as your local High Street Family Law Solicitor. Why people go to these firms is quite beyond me. In my experience,these firms are dealing with Corporate matters in the main and are not concerned with the day to day legal matters of the ordinary man and woman. They may take on your case if you’re doing your business with them or else if a relative of yours is. Your High Street Family Law Practitioner will give you a good personal service and instruct the appropriate barrister to get you through this difficult time.
I come across lay litigants a lot more today than I have in the past. While I respect the individual trying to do his own case, I do see the error of their ways. It is a nigh impossible task. To give credit where it is due, many Judges go out of their way to help such people. That alone will not help them get the justice which many deserve. So, when you download that magic App that will get you painlessly through your divorce or other pressing legal matter just remember… Law without a Lawyer is a fool’s paradise.
LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 7th. August , 2014 .
From atrocities in Gaza to the IMF’s insistence on dumbing down the Health Services in Ireland as too much money was being spent, there is one common denominator. That is that it is people who are the target of all of these measures. Not Giant Corporations or the Banking Community. The Arms Trade is blooming. Maybe pension schemes should invest in this business as it seems to that giant corporations are where your money should be. Definitely not in anything that remotely resembles local business or indeed supporting the citizen and the local economy.
We live in a time when people are being controlled and relabeled not as citizens, but as consumers. The country is not being run to benefit the citizen but to enhance the profits of Big Business in all its guises. When you dehumanize citizens, it is quite acceptable, in their minds, that they can be collateral damage. Sure what if a few thousand are killed or unemployed, or just left to die at the side of the road? Profits are what matters. Businesses that profit the Elites are given tax incentives to come and set up businesses in Ireland today. Our priorities are to enrich these Elites at the expense of the citizen. At the same time services for the citizen are being curtailed while more taxes are being thought up by our Government every other day of the week.
There is more ways than bombing people out of existence, as is happening in Gaza, to control people. The loss of your job, home, medical benefits, social welfare entitlements and the imposition of unjustified taxes on people at the behest of the IMF and their fellow travellers, is indeed akin to actually bombing them out of existence. In Ireland today, people are suffering and dying while others enrich their lifestyles. Our Government have taken directions from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the International Banking fraternity and imposed their directives on the Irish people. These imposed changes are killing our people. Despite the efforts of our marvellous doctors and nurses, people are dying on trolleys in overcrowded hospitals. It is the most vulnerable in our society who are suffering the most but this does not change anything. As a lawyer, I see the high street solicitor and the junior barristers suffering on a daily basis and struggle to survive. These are the lawyers who represent you, the people. I do not see the lawyers servicing the interests of the Corporate set suffer at all. In fact they thrive as they are paid handsomely by Big Business and Governments and International Bankers. The rights of workers are being eroded on a daily basis and these short-term contracts in lieu of proper terms of employment are giving our people no security to enjoy their lives and raise their families with any degree of certainty for the future.
If history have thought us anything, it’s that war follows on from a recession. With all the political manoeuvring by the super powers, financed by the Elites and the insistence on control of oil and natural resources to call their own regardless of where located, the future does look bleak for the ordinary man, woman and child. Not so bleak for the Big Corporations who are hungry in their pursuit of financial gain, both short and long-term. Our Government have played and indeed continue to play their part as the good boys of Europe and have not ever taken a stance for the citizens of this country. The continued imposition of austerity, despite the suffering of the Irish people is akin to the imposition of fascism on the nation. No doubt our Ministers, on the instructions of the Government, will follow the party line, so to speak, and give support to those Elites that demand the continuing demoralising of the Irish people for some time to come, while lending our support to whatever super power we’re to be aligned with, regardless of the cost to the Irish people.
We are told we live in a democracy. On a daily basis we see wars fought to bring democracy to people all over the world. Democracy I was taught, was Government by the people for the people. Well the democracy we’re witnessing throughout the world would appear to be fully under the control of Major Corporations whose interest is far from anything that is pro people. Be careful for what you wish for.
LegalEagleStar , Monday , 21st. July , 2014.
*Thank you to Carol Simpson Cartoon for use of cartoon.
Originally posted on LegalEagleStar:
Q: My name is John and I am 59 years of age and my wife is 57 years. We have 2 children aged 28 and 34 who are self-sufficient. I am sick of my marriage and want to get a divorce. I work in the bank and my wife just looks after the household. My wife used to drink a lot although hasn’t had a drink in about 5 years and attends AA. She used to be very difficult to be around with her drinking though. I have been quite responsible over the years and made good investments and between my family home, savings and pension have about €5million. I would like to retire soon and although I want to separate from my wife and get a divorce, I don’t want to give her all my money. Her behaviour when she used to drink was embarrassing and I think that…
View original 1,720 more words
In the current depressing economic times, people are getting angry. Unfortunately for most they have no avenue open to them to vent this anger and they end up letting it well up inside them causing dreadful health and indeed mental health problems. The ultimate of course is when they’re pushed entirely over the edge and end up taking their own life. Hence we have the dreadful amounts of suicide we see in the Ireland of today. An article worth reading is in the Irish Independent written by Niamh Horan– 14 July 2013. I am taking the liberty of quoting the article in its entirety as it’s a powerful statement of the facts as we see them today…
A Leading psychiatrist is writing to banks on behalf of vulnerable patients, telling them he will hold them responsible in the event of a patient’s suicide.
Dr Ivor Browne says he has been seeking out the names of bank staff responsible for the pressure his patients are under before issuing them with the formal notice.
Dr Browne, former chief psychiatrist of he Eastern Health Board, said the action is “making waves” in favour of
patients who can no longer cope with mounting pressure. “I am hearing people who are being hassled and who are being threatened that their homes will be repossessed,” Dr Browne said.
“I am writing letters to the banks holding them personally responsible if this man commits suicide.”
“Unless you can make them take personal responsibility, it is very difficult to get at them,” he said.
“I would write to the individual who would seem to be implicated. The name that I can get,” he explained, adding “I think it is making waves in the background”.
In a call to other health professionals who are treating people in similar circumstances, Dr Browne said these
exceptional times called for direct action: “I am there to try to help in whatever way I can, and if there is something or someone that is clearly putting unfair pressure on patients, then I think that you have to address that.”
A move by health professionals who are concerned about the welfare of their patients could lead banks to rethink their debt-collection strategy – for fear of future lawsuits.
The Master of the High Court has previously warned that the banks are driving some
borrowers who can not pay their debts to suicide. Ed Honohan, brother of Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, said he had dealt with several debt cases where the borrowers had subsequently taken their own
lives. The news comes as suicide campaigners have accused lending institutions of adding to the suicide crisis by harassing people crippled by debt and struggling to cope with the recession.
Paul Kelly, CEO of Console, welcomed the move by Dr Browne and called on other clinicians to take action if they made a “good clinical decision” that a person’s life may be in danger. “If their client is at risk and in great distress, and the clinician or therapist has a fear their patient could take their own life, then banks need to be made fully
aware of this and steps need to be taken to ensure the individual is protected,” he said. He added: “We are dealing with calls every day where people feel suicidal because of the pressure from banks and lending institutions. In one case, we dealt with a man who walked out of the bank after his loans were foreclosed and he took his own life. People are telling us ‘I would be better off dead’ rather than continue with the pressure they are being put under.”
That is indeed the situation in Ireland today and the actions of our politicians and their close cousins, the bankers, have created a situation where people feel helpless and worth nothing.
What if you’ve taken enough and decide to lend your weight to the many street protests taking place around this time? Well, it is an outlet for your frustrations and indeed can make you feel that little bit better. Nothing worse than sitting about all day complaining when you could be out protesting with the many worthwhile campaigns about today. Remember that The State is an Institution which is very protective of itself. Once you march down the street behind a banner, or turn up to join in a protest at Leinster House, are you aware that you are being photographed and investigated by our ‘Sovereign State’ ? Yes indeed you are. A file will be opened which will contain your personal details. Your Facebook and Twitter Account may be examined as well as other social media you may indulge in. Perhaps you’ll get a knock on your door by some middle-aged detectives who just want to see ‘what you’re up to’. These would be the same characters who have overseen Republicans since the creation of the State.You see The State, our State technically, wants to know the ‘trouble makers’. In today’s scenario that is you and me. Of course all this can and will be shared by the Garda Commissioner with ‘Our’ Minister for Justice, currently Mr Alan Shatter. What they decide to do with all this personal information obtained on you is of course a matter for them. Sadly, it appears the more successful your protests, the higher up their List of Troublemakers you’ll be. And it doesn’t stop there. You may appear on Lists. Yes, private listings where you can end up being ‘Black Listed’. That in effect means that your chances of employment in the future will take a turn for the worst. Sure, who would employ a trouble maker?
Living in Ireland today is not easy. Our Politicians and indeed Bankers are pure foot soldiers for an Elite who have taken the world by storm. Our Citizens are suffering terrible hardships from imposed austerity and this will continue until their goal of complete subjugation has been completed. Suicide or protest? Well I do hope that some day soon the Trade Union Movement will awaken and give leadership to their members and not concern themselves as appears to have happened, with maintaining their ‘cosy relationship’ with Government. The ties between the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement should and must be cut now and true Leadership shown. Nothing short of this will give the much-needed hope that the Irish People deserve. Overthrow the Irish Trade Union Leadership. That seems essential in order that the irish Citizen gets the Leadership they deserve and so urgently need.
LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 16th. July , 2013.