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Can’t pay; won’t pay

The current moment presented by the SMDF/Law Society debacle brings to mind the day Charles J. Haughey addressed the Dail. He quoted a fictional character, Othello;

“I have done the State some service and they know it.”

This was feasible only when addressed to an ignorant audience. Othello was a murderer. He was deceived by Iago, but culpably so. He accepted everything Iago told him and took no opportunity to seek evidence of Iago’s assertions. Othello is in fact the minor character in his eponymous play. Not an exemplar for anyone and not to be quoted by way of self justification, particularly when the dominant note of the quote is self pity.

Currently, the Law Society aspires to be Othello, wronged but seeking vindication vainly. Who has been its Iago?

Should it not look to the available evidence. Is it available?

It is worthwhile examining the legislation empowering (and directing) the Law Society of Ireland to set conditions on the issue of a practising certificate to a solicitor.

HERE is the Statutory Instrument relating to 1998. [SOLICITORS (PRACTISING CERTIFICATE 1998 FEES) REGULATIONS 1997]

For example, the obligation to contribute to the Compensation Fund (designed to compensate victims of fraudulent solicitors) is derived from Section 30 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994. Without that statutory power the Law Society’s regulation could not be effective to compel the payment of the contribution of that year to the Fund.

The Solicitors Acts do not empower the Law Society to levy charges at the discretion of the Society, on solicitors. The charges levied are stipulated in the statutes.

In short, to repeat, currently the Law Society of Ireland has no power to lawfully compel the payment of the levy to make up the SMDF insolvency shortfall. The payment is not provided for in statute, or even contemplated.