Suspended solicitor wants court to halt alleged negligence probe
14th December 2021
A suspended solicitor is seeking to block an inquiry into professional negligence allegations against him.
Declan O’Callaghan claims the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal acted outside its powers in its handling of an inquiry into his alleged conduct in a land deal.
The High Court yesterday began hearing an application from the controversial solicitor for an order prohibiting the tribunal from continuing a hearing into the allegations.
The case is understood to be one of several faced by Mr O’Callaghan, who was prohibited from acting as a solicitor in 2018. The Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon-based lawyer’s suspension arose from concerns raised in an independent solicitor’s report, including that he had withdrawn substantial fees from the estate of a bereaved child.
The tribunal began hearing a separate complaint, made by Co Mayo concrete products manufacturing firm Nirvanna Property Holdings Ltd, in February last year.
This relates to events around 15 years ago and alleged Mr O’Callaghan purported to act for both the vendor and purchaser in a transaction where there was a clear conflict of interest. It is further claimed he provided inadequate professional services and was in breach of his duty of care.
After the hearing of the complaint was adjourned in February last year, Mr O’Callaghan issued judicial review proceedings seeking to have it halted altogether.
In the High Court, his counsel John Shortt SC claimed the entire process engaged in by the tribunal was flawed.
The company was being represented at the tribunal by one of its directors, Tom Fleming.
The court heard that following an objection from a lawyer for Mr O’Callaghan the tribunal halted the hearing as a limited company cannot be represented by its managing director or other officers.
The tribunal gave an adjournment after Mr Fleming sought time to retain a solicitor to act for the company.
However, Mr Shortt maintained that the adjournment should not have been given as Mr Fleming had no legal standing to seek it.
“It erroneously gave itself jurisdiction to adjourn and postpone a hearing on an incorrect ground made by a person who had no locus standi to make the application,” said Mr Shortt.
He also maintained the tribunal was mandated by statute to make an adjudication on the complaints but did not do so.
The application is being opposed by the tribunal.
In another case in 2019, Mr O’Callaghan admitted professional misconduct and was ordered to pay €10,000 into the Law Society’s compensation fund for unlawfully retaining client funds when he acted in the sale of a house.