Singapore: Law firm partner ordered to pay $10,000 for disrespecting judge, discourtesy to fellow lawyer

Singapore Law Watch reports

The apex court in dismissing the appeal said that Ms Carolyn Tan Beng Hui showed a lack of remorse even in her written mitigation pleas to the disciplinary tribunal.

The partner of a law firm who made disrespectful remarks against a judge and falsely accused an opposing counsel of committing perjury found herself the subject of 13 complaints lodged by six lawyers.

Following a disciplinary hearing, the Law Society council imposed a $10,000 penalty on Ms Carolyn Tan Beng Hui for making disrespectful remarks to the judge, making perjury allegations against fellow lawyer David Kong and failing to give Mr Kong an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

These acts were in breach of professional conduct rules, which state that lawyers have to be respectful to the court, treat each other with courtesy, and cannot make allegations against another practitioner unless the person is given the opportunity to respond.

Ms Tan, who has practised law for more than 30 years, appealed against the penalty but failed in her attempts, first to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal.

On Wednesday, in giving written grounds for dismissing her appeal, the apex court said Ms Tan showed a lack of remorse even in her written mitigation pleas to the disciplinary tribunal.

The court said Ms Tan had made spiteful and self-righteous remarks in her mitigation regarding Mr Kong, who died in February 2019.

She stated in the mitigation that the “dead man is not here to make his case. How can the dead man (sic) non-testimony be preferred over mine”.

She also said that Mr Kong was an “evil person whom God has punished by taking his life in his prime”.

Ms Tan also said that the six lawyers who filed complaints had “tried to poison the mind” of an inexperienced judge.

The court said: “The multiple occasions on which the allegations were made, coupled with the lack of remorse on the appellant’s part, were sufficient aggravating factors that justified the council’s decision on the penalty.”

The disciplinary proceedings arose from a court action – described by the disciplinary tribunal as “fairly mundane” – started by Ms Tan’s firm, Tan & Au, in respect of a sum of money it held as a stakeholder.

The money was the balance of proceeds from the sale of a residential property that was being claimed by seven siblings.