Wee Soon Kim Anthony v The Law Society of Singapore

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChan Sek Keong JC
Judgment Date23 May 1988
Neutral Citation[1988] SGHC 44
Citation[1988] SGHC 44
Defendant CounselGoh Joon Seng (Goh Poh & Partners)
Plaintiff CounselMak Kok Weng (Mak & Partners)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 157 of 1988
Date23 May 1988
Subject MatterLegal Profession,s 93(4) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161),Whether High Court has original jurisdiction to hear complaint against solicitor after Law Society Council dismisses complaint,Whether court has original jurisdiction to hear complaint,Original,Law Society Council dismisses complaint,Disciplinary procedures,Jurisdiction,Courts and Jurisdiction,Complaint against advocate and solicitor for making reckless allegations and failing to verify allegations

This was an application by the plaintiff made pursuant to s 93 of the Legal Profession, Act (Cap 161) (the Act) for an order that the Law Society of Singapore be directed to apply to the honourable Chief Justice for the appointment of a disciplinary committee to investigate the complaint dated 17 November 1987 of the plaintiff against two advocates and solicitors, viz Mr Goh Soon Hock (GSH) and Mr Tan Kok Quan (TKQ).

At the conclusion of the hearing, I dismissed the application with costs and said I would give my reasons later.

The plaintiff and GSH were practising as advocates and solicitors during the period from 1 July 1971 up to December 1984 in the firm of Messrs ASK Wee.
GSH left the firm as a result of certain tax investigations made against the plaintiff. In suit no 8521, the plaintiff commenced proceedings against GSH claiming the sum of $246,410.33, being the total amount taken out by GSH allegedly as his share of the profits of the firm when he was only an employee, and the sum of $96,000 being excess salary taken out by GSH. In his defence, GSH has maintained that he was a partner during the material period and that he had not taken out any money wrongfully from the firm. He has also counter claimed for an account and inquiry in respect of the partnership assets and for payment of his share of the profits of the firm. TKQ, a partner in Messrs Lee & Lee, represent GSH in these proceedings, which are pending.

In O 14 proceedings in SUIT NO 8521 of 1985, GSH on 28 November 1985 swore an affidavit in which he deposed in para 19 thereof that the plaintiff had received payment in cash or kind from clients for which no proper bills had been rendered and no proper receipts had been issued or which had been paid to him over and above the amount of costs shown on the bills delivered.
GSH listed out the names of five clients who, he deposed, had alleged they had been involved in such payments.

The plaintiff has denied the said allegations in an affidavit, the relevant paragraph (ie para 13) of which reads:

as regards para 19 ..., a very grave libel has been committed against me by those concerned and appropriate action is on foot. The persons referred to in para 19(2), (3), (4) and (5) have sworn/affirmed their categorical denials of the defendant`s allegations against me. In so far as [the first named client] is concerned, I annex hereto ... an exchange of letters which clearly shows that the defendant was aware that the question of costs was never settled and therefore that I had improperly received substantial sums of moneys from [the client] in the manners alleged is as untrue as it is malicious.

The affidavits of the four named clients denying GSH`s allegations were filed for the purpose of the said application.

On 17 November 1987, the plaintiff lodged a complaint with the Law Society and requested an investigation into the conduct of GSH and TKQ.
The substance of the complaint was:

(1) That both Goh Soon Hock and his solicitor made them [ie the allegations] recklessly not caring whether they are true or false with the view to smearing me with the stigma of my having committed a criminal offence with the consequence that I had, cheated Goh Soon Hock out of his share of the costs.

(2) Tan Kok Quan had failed to take reasonable steps to take statements from the named clients or to verify the source of information before permitting the said affidavit to be sworn before a commissioner for oaths and before filing and service.

The Law Society referred the complaint to the chairman of the inquiry panel on 25 November 1987 and informed the plaintiff on the same day.
On 8 January 1988, the Law Society wrote to the plaintiff to inform him that the Council had accepted the report of the inquiry committee that the complaint did not merit a formal investigation by a disciplinary committee. The complaint was accordingly dismissed.

On 2 February 1988, the plaintiff requested the Council under s 84(3) of the Act to furnish him in writing the reasons for the dismissal of the complaint.
On 4 February 1988, the Law Society, by letter, informed the plaintiff of the reasons which were as follows:

First respondent (Mr Goh Soon Hock)

(1) The committee was of the view that having regard to the fact that not only civil but also criminal proceedings are pending in which the very matters complained of in the affidavit are in issue, a disciplinary inquiry into this complaint would be premature. You are not precluded from making a complaint upon the conclusion of these proceedings if subsequent circumstances so warrant.

(2) The committee was of the view that the first respondent swore the affidavit as a litigant (rather than as a solicitor). The committee did not consider that it was the correct forum to verify the correctness, accuracy or otherwise of the various statements made in the said affidavit. Having regard to, the pending civil and criminal proceedings to which the first respondent is a party, the committee did not consider it appropriate that the first respondent should be called to substantiate or explain before it or a disciplinary committee the statements made by him in his capacity as a litigant, which might require him to reveal the evidence he was relying upon. To do so may well be prejudicial to the first respondent`s case in either the civil or criminal proceedings.

Second Respondent (Mr Tan Kok Quan)

(1) The second respondent has explained that he did not prepare the said affidavit which was prepared by the first respondent himself without any assistance from the second respondent`s firm. The second respondent was on leave when the said affidavit was received by his office.

(2) The committee was of the view that there was no evidence that the second respondent acted...

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20 cases
  • Whitehouse Holdings Pte Ltd v Law Society of Singapore
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 23 May 1994
    ...SLR 527 (refd) Wee Harry Lee, Re [1983-1984] SLR (R) 274; [1984-1985] SLR 323 (refd) Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [1988] 1 SLR (R) 455; [1988] SLR 510 (distd) Wong Juan Swee v Law Society of Singapore [1993] 1 SLR (R) 429; [1993] 2 SLR 554 (folld) Legal Profession Act (Ca......
  • The Law Society of Singapore v Ang Boon Kong Lawrence
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 14 December 1992
    ......Counsel referred us to Anthony Wee Soon Kim v The Law Society of Singapore [1988] 3 MLJ 9 but that was of no application to the present case because a totally different ......
  • Lee Kuan Yew v Tang Liang Hong and Another
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 12 November 1997
    ...Pty Ltd (1966) 117 CLR 118 (folld) Vasoo v Chee Soon Juan Suit No 935 of 1993 (refd) Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [1988] 1 SLR (R) 455; [1988] SLR 510 (folld) Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1992 Reprint) Art 12 (1) Defamation Act (Cap 75, 1985 Rev......
  • Bachoo Mohan Singh v Public Prosecutor and another matter
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 15 July 2010
    ...a solicitor that he must verify the instructions of his client. This was laid down in Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore [1988] 1 SLR(R) 455 and Tang Liang Hong v Lee Kuan Yew [[1997] 3 SLR(R) 576]. It would be different if there were compelling reasons or circumstances which r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...fact carried out investigations into the complaint and made a determination accordingly: Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore[1988] SLR 510. But what is the standard of evaluation? From the manner in which the High Court and Court of Appeal dealt with the contentions of the appli......
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2006, December 2006
    • 1 December 2006
    ...by appointing an IC to investigate them, unless criminal proceedings are pending, (see Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Law Society of Singapore[1988] 1 SLR 510 (‘Wee Soon Kim Anthony’). See also Whitehouse Holdings Pte Ltd v Law Society of Singapore[1994] 2 SLR 476). This idea that the complainant, ......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2008, December 2008
    • 1 December 2008
    ...Interpretation (Butterworths LexisNexis, 4th Ed, 2002) at p 729. 29 See also, Wee Soon Kim Anthony v The Law Society of Singapore[1988] SLR 510 at [16], where the same was said in respect of a similar provision. 30 This reference to “show cause” presumably means that it is for the solicitor......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal No. 2008, December 2008
    • 1 December 2008
    ...presentation of evidence. 75 LP(PC)R r 47. 76 The process of drafting is considered below. 77 See “(ii)” in the preceding paragraph. 78 [1988] SLR 510 at para 12. 79 See Ethics and Professional Responsibility, at para [04-020]. 80 See, for example, Law Society of Singapore v Tan Phuay Khian......

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