Case Update: Foo Jong Long Dennis v Ang Yee Lim Lawrence [2016] SGHC 10

Foo Jong Long Dennis v Ang Yee Lim Lawrence [2016] SGHC 10

Significance: Singapore High Court rejected party’s application to discharge opposing party’s solicitor pursuant to r 64(2) of the PCR, i.e. on the basis that the opposing party’s solicitor is likely a witness on a material question of fact at the trial.

Citing the High Court decision of Then Khek Khoon and another v Arjun Permanand Samtani and another [2012] 2 SLR 451, the Court reiterated the propositions of law as follows (at [161]):

(a) The court’s inherent jurisdiction under O 92 r 4 of ROC should only be exercised where there is a clear need and where the justice of the case so demands. Strong or compelling reasons have to be identified by the party in support of such an application: at [14] – [15] of Then Khek Khoon.

(b) The Law Society of Singapore (“the Law Society”) is the proper forum for the determination of breaches of the PCR but where matters impinge on the proper administration of justice, due process and wider public interest issues, the court should intervene: at [22] of Then Khek Khoon.

(c) In assessing whether there is a breach of r 64(2), the court will have to consider whether there is a material fact in issue and whether there is “the danger of the subconscious shaping of the evidence to suit the solicitor’s interest as against that of his client and the duty to the court”: at [47] of Then Khek Khoon.

(d) While the wording of r 64(2) of the PCR is expressly limited to the advocate and solicitor, the question of whether it will extend to all other solicitors in the firm depends on the facts and circumstances of each case: at [48] of Then Khek Khoon.

(e) A court will have to balance the mischief that is to be prevented against the right of a party to be represented by a lawyer of his choice. This involves a balancing of all the facts and circumstances including the alleged breach, the bona fides of the opposing-party-applicant, the time at and circumstances under which the application is made and the mischief the rule is intended to prevent: at [28] of Then Khek Khoon.

Further, if the court takes the view that the application to discharge a solicitor was brought in bad faith, it should not grant the plaintiff any relief, as the plaintiff who comes with unclean hands should not ask the court to grant it a relief in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.: [163].

On the facts, the Court rejected the application to discharge the opposing party’s solicitors as the Court found that the applicant was abusing the process of the court by invoking its inherent jurisdiction and that his application lacked bona fides: [179]-[180]. The Court opined that the applicant merely wanted to inconvenience and prejudice the opposing party in the conduct of their defence and also get back at their counsel for cross-examining him in a way that exasperated him: [179].

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