The High Court dismissed solicitor Gerald Kean’s appeal against a finding of professional misconduct arising out of his handling of a Drumsna client’s case.
High Court President Justice Nicholas Kearns upheld the finding on Tuesday, September 23 made by a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) against the celebrity solicitor over his handling of a case brought by Christopher O’Neill from Drumsna.
In his ruling the judge said the tribunal had “ample evidence to support its conclusions” about Mr Kean, and its findings “could not be considered irrational, speculative or in any other way lacking a proper foundation.”
However, the court said it would not impose a fine of €20,000 for misconduct on Mr Kean, which had been recommended by the SDT. The judge said the finding of misconduct, which did not rank among the most serious cases of misconduct to come before the court, against Mr Kean was a harsh enough penalty.
Kean had disputed the findings against him, denies misconduct and argued the fine was disproportionate and excessive. The Law Society opposed the appeal and argued the Disciplinary Tribunal’s findings and fine should be upheld.
Drumsna’s Christopher O’Neill had said that Mr Kean knowingly misled him into believing the solicitor had put in a defence to a District Court debt case against him by Ballycotton Marine Services Ltd in 2005. Mr O’Neill said he hired Mr Kean to act for him in that case, which he lost. He received a judgment in the post instructing him to pay €1,067.
The SDT upheld Mr O’Neill’s complaints Mr Kean knowingly misled him into believing a notice to defend the proceedings involving BMS had been submitted. The SDT also found the solicitor failed to lodge an appeal against the decree and misled Mr O’Neill into believing such an appeal was lodged.
Mr Justice Kearns said there was “sufficient evidence” before the SDT “to comprehensively demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Kean in effect tried to mislead his own client in a misguided attempt to cover up what initially was an omission”.
The Judge said it would not have been difficult to imagine Mr O’Neill’s feelings when he discovered a judgment had been marked against him in default of a defence when he believed the case was being fully defended.
The judge also awarded costs of the appeal in favour of the Law Society.