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This site is based on Disciplinary and Regulatory Proceedings, 8th Edition
Disciplinary and Regulatory Proceedings is the leading work on this important and dynamic area of law. For 20 years it has provided authoritative guidance to lawyers, tribunals, and other experts dealing with professional discipline and regulation.

Meritless complaints

Some regulatory bodies, such as the Scottish Law Society, are subject to a duty upon receiving a complaint against a solicitor is to to ‘determine whether or not the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit’. Useful advice on this duty was expressed by Lord Kingarth in the case of Law Society of Scotland v The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission [2010] ScotCS CSIH_79:
‘The plain intention of the Act is to impose a duty on the respondents to sift out, at a preliminary stage, wholly unmeritorious claims. This is an important duty, for a number of reasons. In the first place, although the primary interest which the Act seeks to protect is, no doubt, the public interest, it is not obvious that there is any public interest in the investigation, and reporting, of complaints which are wholly without merit, nor is that obviously in the interests of any complainer. Secondly, as was agreed before us, it is plain in terms of… the Act that once a complaint is remitted to them the appellants must investigate it and thereafter make a written report thereon. No sifting role, or power to deal with a complaint summarily, is afforded to the appellants. There is thus an obvious advantage if the appellants are not put to the time and expense of investigating unmeritorious claims… How the respondents perform this important preliminary sifting duty will no doubt depend on the facts of any case, and will vary from case to case. In these circumstances it would be inappropriate, in this appeal, to attempt to give any detailed guidance. It does, however, appear to me that the respondents will require in every case to obtain at least basic information as to the basis upon which the complaint is being made. To take an example suggested by the appellants - if the respondents receive a complaint that solicitor A is a thief, the respondents would, it seems, at least have to ask upon what basis that allegation is being made before they could assess whether there was any merit in it. If, for example, on questioning, the complainer was to answer that it was because solicitor A had red hair, the lack of merit of the complaint would be obvious…. [A]n over-technical view should [not] be taken of what a complaint comprises, or that a complaint should be judged solely on the basis of the initial statement by the complainer. I can readily envisage circumstances in which a complaint could, particularly after clarification, reasonably be said to give rise to wider concerns than those first mentioned.’

 

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