Last week (24 Jul), the case to get the High Court to review the complaint against two Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) lawyers started.
The case was brought about by surgeon Susan Lim’s husband, Deepak Sharma, who is a retired banker. He wants the High Court to reverse the decision of Law Society which earlier decided to dismiss the complaint against the 2 lawyers. Mr Sharma was the person funding Dr Lim’s legal expenses.
One of these lawyers is none other than Alvin Yeo, an MP of Chua Chu Kang GRC and Senior Counsel of WongPartnership. He and his colleague represented SMC in the lawsuit against Susan Lim.
The lawyer for Mr Deepak Sharma pointed to how the $1 million bill put up by Alvin Yeo and his colleague was later knocked down by the courts to $370,000. Citing cases of lawyers who were suspended for overcharging their clients relatively smaller amounts, he said, “The margin is so stark… that it invites inquiry as to whether there was any misconduct here.”
But the Law Society and Attorney-General (AG) disagreed.
State Counsel Khoo Boo Jin, representing the AG, noted that the cases cited dealt with lawyers billing their clients for professional fees. The current one, on the other hand, is a “party and party” situation in which SMC, as the winning party, is seeking legal costs from Dr Lim, the losing party. Such “party and party” costs are not an award of legal fees to the winning party or legal fees charged by the lawyer but a compensatory award to defray the legal costs of the winning party, he said.
The lawyer, representing the Law Society, said that just because a claim for costs is brought down by the court, is not enough to constitute misconduct.
In other words, both the AG and Law Society contended that there was no misconduct on the part of Alvin Yeo and his colleague, even though the $1 million fees were later cut down to $370,000 by the courts.
Mr Sharma had earlier revealed that in one of their bills, Alvin Yeo’s law firm had charged some $77,102 for each day they were in court. In another bill, it was $46,729 for each day in court. And a third bill claimed that the lawyers’ charges amounted to $100,000 per hour of hearing.
“I believe that the actions by the lawyers in grossly overcharging my wife by $637,009 (the difference between the original bill amount of $1.007 million and the $370,000 allowed by Justice Woo) are dishonourable and constitute grossly improper conduct,” Mr Sharma said in his papers submitted to the court.
This is believed to be the first time that an application has been made for a judicial review of a review committee’s decision.
Law Society dismisses Mr Shama’s complaint
In January last year, Mr Sharma complained to the Law Society against Alvin Yeo and his colleague for claiming “exorbitant” fees which amounted to “grossly improper conduct”.
A two-member review committee from the Law Society dismissed his complaints against MP Yeo, except for one against Yeo’s colleague.
Because of the dismissal from Law Society, Mr Sharma then applied to the High Court for judicial review, hoping to overturn the decision of Law Society.
However, AG is saying that Mr Sharma has no legal standing to complain to the society or to seek judicial review and the Law Society is saying that while he has the standing, a review committee’s decision is not subject to judicial review.
Also, the lawyer for Law Society said the society should not be named as a defendant as it did not make the decision to dismiss the complaint.
Alvin Yeo to stand in next GE?
Meanwhile, it’s not known if Alvin Yeo will be standing for election in the forthcoming GE, which some said will occur on 12th Sep.
Mr Yeo was part of the PAP GRC team led by Minister Gan Kim Yong contesting in Chua Chu Kang GRC in the last GE. The opposition team was from NSP, led by Hazel Poa and Sebastian Teo, who are the current Secretary-General and President of NSP respectively.
NSP was able to garner a respectable 39%.
If the court finds Alvin Yeo guilty of misconduct, it’s not known if he can still stand for election.
This article was first published on TR Emeritus.