The long-awaited verdict on Lee Suet Fern’s (Lee) disciplinary hearing has now been released, with the court of three judges handing her a 15-month suspension. The highest disciplinary body for the legal profession in Singapore found Lee guilty of misconduct which was unbefitting an advocate and solicitor, saying that she had “blindly followed the directions of her husband, a significant beneficiary under the very will whose execution she helped to rush through”.
Whether the public agrees with the verdict, the matter is now legally closed as there is no higher authority to appeal to. Yet questions will remain as to why she was suspended in the first place.
It is noteworthy that the three Judges, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Judge Woo Bih Li, had accepted that there was no solicitor-client relationship between Lee and her father in law, the late Lee Kuan Yew (LKY). They had also acquitted her of gross improper conduct and denied the Law Society’s application for Lee to be disbarred.
Apart from being one of Singapore’s top corporate lawyers, Lee was also a wife, mother and daughter in law. In other words, she had a private life outside of her professional life (which she is entitled to). In her dealings with LKY, she was likely acting as a daughter in law who happened to be a lawyer. She was not acting as a lawyer for LKY (something that the court agreed with). If so, isn’t it tenuous to find her guilty of misconduct?
Secondly, the Court of three judges agreed that there was no evidence that LKY was not of sound mind at the time the amendments to the Will were made. In fact, a witness to the execution of the Will had said that LKY was lucid at the time and completely understood the matter. As such, it wasn’t a case of a doddering old man that was misled by his daughter in law
Where then is the misconduct?
It is also imperative to note that LKY’s Will was never challenged as having been executed under undue influence. Nor was LKY’s testamentary capacity at the material time called into question. The Will was probated without objection from family members and beneficiaries.
Why then has it suddenly become an issue?
It was the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) who first raised the alarm of Lee’s apparent misconduct to the Law Society which resulted in the disciplinary actions that were since taken against her. It is extremely unusual for a state body funded by the public such as the AGC to have an interest in what is essentially a private affair. How did the AGC even become aware of the potential irregularities of LKY’s Will? Who told them? Why?
Many questions that may never be conclusively answered to our satisfaction.
Could it indeed be true that “Lee Hsien Loong has no shame about using state resources to settle grudges against relatives?”
This is certainly the view held by Lee’s son. Li Shengwu (Li) and leader of the Reform Party, Kenneth Jeyaretnam.
Lee herself has publicly stated her disagreement with the verdict.
Is Li right in saying that the Prime Minister should “resign now, rather than continuing to undermine the rule of law in Singapore”?