LegalEagleStar

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Posts Tagged ‘Judge

Will the Citizen have access to the legal profession? Not if the Big Corporations have any say about it!

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I qualified as a solicitor in 1980. I had no connections in law at all and if it wasn’t for the endeavours of my late father, I couldn’t have pursued my legal studies. He worked hard to provide me with an education and without him and the support of my mother, I’d never have succeeded.

For the previous couple of years or so before qualifying, I had been influenced by Inge Clissmann and Aedan McGovern, both barristers and now Senior Counsel. Inge had got me involved with FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres which was run by law students who represented in Court, members of the public who couldn’t afford access to justice. Inge introduced me to the Ballymun Centre located in the basement of Padraig Pearse Tower, long since demolished. There we mainly dealt with family law issues and quite simply, we were overrun with the work. Overrun and indeed overawed. It has left an indelible impression upon me to this day. With little or nothing, the parents we dealt with, raised their families in the most trying of circumstances. At the end of the night, after seeing all those needing help, Inge would insist we retired to the Towers Pub to have a drink, one drink, so as to encourage those we had met to see that we were no different from them and could empathise with them. She was all too aware that lawyers were thought of as elitist and she was doing her part in showing everyone that we were not. She also was teaching us students about our social responsibilities and would not tolerate any bullshit from us. She encouraged talk and discussion and left her mark on us. I subsequently took over as Director of FLAC in Ballymun some time later. They were hard times but certainly gave us law students a social conscience which remains with us to this day. All this happened before our Government were forced to bring in Civil Legal Aid. During my career I have had the pleasure to act for those who ‘couldn’t afford a lawyer’. Pro bono work as it is now referred to.

 

The other influence on my career was my late father. While he was one of the ‘bosses’ in British Railways he was a solid Trade Unionist. He was also a devoted Roman Catholic with a great social conscience. He worked hard to look after us but instilled in me an outlook where people came first. It’s probably because of his example, that at an early stage after qualifying,  I made a decision to not act for Banks or Insurance Companies because I could not identify with the Profit at the expense of People dictate. I found many of their dealings with people to be disgusting and abhorrent. To this day my attitude has not changed.

 

I was lucky enough to be practising when the Competition Authority actions enabled solicitors to advertise. I took out a full-page in Golden Pages, advertising my Personal Injury Law Firm as well as having regular adverts air on RTE Radio. My firm expanded and I must say, I was delighted with the pro-people stance we took. We were a plaintiff firm, never acting for the defendant Insurance Companies. We were attacking the anti-people establishment and winning. Many other firms followed suit and people were being represented on a no-win no-fee basis. What other way could people access the law? This continued, or should I say was allowed to continue for only a moment in time. The Law Society among other interested groups were unhappy and pressurised the Government into making changes. Subsequently PIAB was formed to be a ‘lawyer free zone’ and were mandated with looking after all the injury cases from now on. Thankfully after come Court cases it is no longer a ‘lawyer-free’ zone but the setting up of The ‘Injuries Board’ has depleted the work carried out by High Street Solicitors, whose clients were people, not corporations. At the same time, the Law Society tightened up their advertising regulations and I was personally instructed to not call Early & Baldwin a Personal Injury Law Firm as this was ‘encouraging’ claims. And we are to this day prohibited from advertising that personal injury law is what we do. All this was done by the State in the interests of injured people we were told. Do not believe a word of it. For once, the lawyers who acted for the working man and woman were bringing their cases to Court and accessing ‘Justice’ for them. The Insurance lobby is very powerful, not unlike the Banks. They have great influence over Government, unlike the citizen who has little or no influence.

 

Currently there is outrage regarding the amounts the Insurance Industry are charging for renewal of motor policies. Us lawyers are of course being blamed by the Industry but many commentators are challenging this assertion. Remember that cases were heard before Juries until Government was lobbied by the Insurers who said that people could not be trusted. Then we had cases heard by Judges alone. This continued until the Insurance Industry said that Judges were awarding too much. Judges were halted and the Injuries Board was put in place to replace them. Now it’s only possible for your case to be heard before a Judge, if you’ve rejected the award made by the Injuries Board. All this change has been lobbied for and achieved by the Insurance Industry for their own benefit, not for the citizen. In fact the changes in the law were designed to deny the citizen access to the law by taking the high street solicitor out of the equation. Meanwhile the Big Law Firms still represent the Insurance Industry is all their guises. All this ‘reform’ of the law should be taken with a grain of salt. What had been achieved by young enthusiastic lawyers in getting access to the law for the ordinary man and woman, has now in effect been severely curtailed. This is quite alarming, but maybe not surprising. With the Corporation Tax obscenities and the control of Government by the Bankers, this is the logical conclusion. In future, they would hope, that access to the law was not for the ordinary citizen but solely the preserve of Big Law for their corporate clientelle.

 

LegalEagleStar Friday , 23rd. September, 2016

 

 

 

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm

The Day a Judge told me to F Off !

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Early & BaldwinAs 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.

Written by LegalEagleStar

November 3, 2015 at 8:55 pm

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