Tuesday, July 7, 2009

(MY064) Lawyer who blogged about ongoing case fined S$1,000

SINGAPORE, July 7 — It is the first case of its kind: A lawyer has been fined S$1,000 (RM2,427) by the Law Society of Singapore for giving his views of an ongoing case in his blog.

Alfred Dodwell was taken to task by the society for “publicly promoting his view of the witnesses and the merits of an ongoing court proceeding, albeit through the medium of blogs”.

The action, reflected last week in the Government Gazette, was taken as Mr Dodwell “had failed to meet the standard of conduct befitting” a lawyer.

As a result of the case, the Law Society has cautioned lawyers about comments they make in blogs and to the media.

In an advisory two months ago, it warned lawyers not to post comments that would compromise client confidentiality, discuss ongoing cases, or make adverse comments about the clients of the opposing party.

The incident relating to Dodwell, 40, is believed to centre on a 2006 case in which siblings had a spat over the will left by their late mother for an estate worth S$700,000.

In it, four siblings represented by Dodwell disputed the validity of the will, which bequeathed an additional S$50,000 to another sibling, who was represented by lawyer Lim Joo Toon.

Dowell’s clients lost the case, but they have appealed, and the three-year saga will continue with a hearing in the Court of Appeal in September.

It is unclear what statements Dodwell made in his blog, entitled “My God Given Life”.

The Straits Times understands that although names were not mentioned, his blog entries contained enough key details for affected parties to recognise the case.

The lawyer is also believed to have made offending remarks on more than one occasion.

When contacted yesterday, Dodwell did not want to go into what his blog postings said.

He said, however, that blogs were part of the new media scene, but added: “I did what I did as a private individual, but I am also a lawyer. This is a whole new area and the Law Society has come to a view.

“I stand guided by the society’s stand, as would all lawyers in this new media arena.”

Lawyers say that while factual reports of an ongoing case can be blogged about, commenting about witnesses or the merits of a case go beyond the pale.

Last week’s Government Gazette also contained an item about rogue lawyer Zulkifli Mohd Amin, who disappeared in 2007 with more than S$6 million of his clients’ money.

It said Zulkifli had been fined S$1,000 for a breach related to overcharging clients. — The Straits Times

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