Hellish day in court for Solicitors from Hell

The person behind the naming and shaming website 'Solicitors from Hell' , Rick Kordowski, has had his defence to a libel action blown out of court by a not impressed Mr Justice Tugendhat who considered his self-represented defence to be an abuse of process.

The issue:

The site elicits feedback from disgruntled clients who are no doubt appreciative of a forum through which to vent their displeasure at the perceived derisory performance of their solicitors. One firm, Awdry Bailey & Douglas, took exception to comments posted on the site which were supposedly from a client. It later transpired that the posting came from the fromer husband of a client and the firm considered them to be defamatory.

A feature of the site was that Kordowski appears to have developed a business model through which he offers the named and shamed the opportunity to have the naming and shaming posting removed from the site for a fee. The subtext to this 'proposition' is that if the firm in question pays an 'administration fee' then this could save them the cost of litigating over the - possibly - defamatory allegations as the posting would be removed from the site.

Awdry Bailey & Douglas did not subscribe to this model and proceeded with a defamation action against Kordowski.

The High Court ruling this week:
Kordowski, who represented himself, sought to advance various blanket excuses including contending that he had submitted a Part 36 offer that had been rejected (not surprisingly since it was framed along the lines of pay him some money and discontinue the claim and that will settle the matter).

Mr Justice Tugendhat was not persuaded by Krodowski's ineffectual attempts to defend his - or the website over which he had control - actions. He concluded that none of the documents or 'evidence' put forward by Kordowski added up to anything approaching a defence and as such his defence failed and, further, his actions were seen to be an attempt to abuse the process.

Kordowski is reported as seeking to appeal the decision - something that could be an expensive exercise on his part.

Mediabeak thinks that to the extent it is very good to name and shame those not delivering a quality and professional service, the good intent behind the Solicitors from Hell site has potentially been undermined by a focus on the business opportunity of offering those shamed the removal of the posting for a fee. This dilutes the integrity of the free speech angle and idea of being able to complain in the first place. Surely those complaining would not be impressed if their complaint were removed if those they were complaining about paid the website a fee. IF there is a genuine cause of complaint then that deserves to be aired and would - if shown to be true - withstand a defamation challenge. It is not right to sell or remove the free expression of that complaint for a fee and thereby facilitate the suppression of the expression for a fee. Where challenges and complaints are true and justified then there is little to fear in expressing them as they will stand up to a defamation challenge.

For those with a good experience to shout about there is always the 'Solicitors from Heaven' site - though defamatory comment on the Hell site will not be mitigated by there being a Heaven.

Kordowski is no stranger to legal action over his site's postings, last October Shoreditch solicitor Megan Phillips won £17,500 damages and £28,000 costs against Kordowski over 'completely fictitious' and derogatory comments about her on the Solictors from Hell website.

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