Over­charg­ing lawyer ver­bally abused for­mer client who chal­lenged him over ex­ces­sive fees

Irish Independent - - News - Shane Phe­lan LE­GAL AF­FAIRS ED­I­TOR

A SOLIC­I­TOR who over­charged a pub­li­can by €650,000 for le­gal work ver­bally abused his for­mer client dur­ing a hear­ing over the dis­puted bills, the High Court has said.

The court said solic­i­tor Joe Buck­ley called the client “names of a most in­sult­ing and rep­re­hen­si­ble na­ture” dur­ing a break in a hear­ing in front of Tax­ing Mas­ter De­clan O’Neill in April 2014.

De­tails of the shock­ing in­ci­dent were given in a judg­ment by Mr Jus­tice Don­ald Binchy.

The judge dis­missed a chal­lenge by the Wick­low-based solic­i­tor to the Tax­ing Mas­ter’s de­ci­sion to cut bills charged to pub­li­can De­nis Doyle.

Sep­a­rate pro­ceed­ings by Mr Doyle against Mr Buck­ley, seek­ing a sum of €565,000 in a client ac­count, are set to go ahead fol­low­ing yes­ter­day’s rul­ing.

Mr Buck­ley rep­re­sented Mr Doyle and mem­ber of his fam­ily in a num­ber of mat­ters, in­clud­ing the sale of prop­erty, over 10 years from 1998. But the pub­li­can be­came con­cerned about over­charg­ing and the al­leged use of money in the client ac­count to dis­charge fees.

The over­charg­ing con­cerns went be­fore the Tax­ing Mas­ter, who de­cides on dis­putes over le­gal costs aris­ing from lit­i­ga­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the judg­ment, Mr Buck­ley ini­tially de­nied the out­burst at the hear­ing.

How­ever, he was con­tra­dicted by a stenog­ra­pher who over­heard what hap­pened.

The Tax­ing Mas­ter later lis­tened to a dig­i­tal au­dio record­ing of the pro­ceed­ings, which con­firmed Mr Buck­ley had made the re­marks.

Mr Buck­ley “im­me­di­ately apol­o­gised” for what he had said and for mis­lead­ing the Tax­ing Mas­ter, claim­ing he made the com­ments out of frus­tra­tion at ev­i­dence given by Mr Doyle.

How­ever, the out­burst led Mr O’Neill to doubt the solic­i­tor’s ev­i­dence in re­la­tion to a num­ber of bills.

Mr Buck­ley had al­leged the Tax­ing Mas­ter did not have ju­ris­dic­tion to tax some of the bills and sought a re­view of the ex­am­i­na­tion con­ducted.

But in his rul­ing yes­ter­day, Mr Jus­tice Binchy rejected the solic­i­tor’s ob­jec­tions.

The judg­ment out­lined sev­eral in­stances of over­charg­ing.

Th­ese in­cluded oc­ca­sions where the solic­i­tor billed for time spent in court when he was not ac­tu­ally present.

In one mat­ter, the sale of land­fill lands, Mr Buck­ley is­sued in­voices to­talling €111,250 for what he claimed was 145 hours’ work.

How­ever, Mr O’Neill es­ti­mated the amount of time in­volved was 52.75 hours and ruled that the ap­pro­pri­ate fee was €40,000.

Solic­i­tor used names of ‘a most in­sult­ing na­ture’

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