Barrister claimed Bar Council treated her 'like Jew in Nazi Germany', High Court hears

A barrister likened the treatment by her professional body of two complaints against her to “being treated like a Jew in Nazi Germany”, the High Court heard.

Barrister claimed Bar Council treated her 'like Jew in Nazi Germany', High Court hears

A barrister likened the treatment by her professional body of two complaints against her to “being treated like a Jew in Nazi Germany”, the High Court heard.

Eugenie Houston argued that just as it was said about the Holocaust of “how did we let it happen?”, the same could be said about her treatment in that it was reminiscent of where good people accepted an unacceptable regime.

Today, Mr Justice Michael Twomey rejected her characterisation of the events as “completely unjustified”.

Ms Houston also claimed she was subjected to the equivalent of a “punishment beating” by Bar Council, or members of its Professional Practices Committee (PPC), or by its Professional Conduct Tribunal (PCT) or by its Professional Conduct Appeals Board (PCAB).

Ms Houston also claimed her treatment was the equivalent of being put in a burqa and placed in the middle of a field waiting to have her head chopped off, that she was inflicted with modern-day slavery and to a reign of terror.

She sued various members of the Bar Council, including David Barniville who was later appointed a High Court judge, claiming defamation, breach of constitutional rights and of competition law by use of a dominant position. She also claimed assault because she had been placed in fear over the way her complaint was handled.

The defendants denied the claims and the appeal bodies argued they were independent of the Bar Council.

Mr Justice Twomey told her he was dismissing all her claims because she had not made out a case on the face of things (prima facie). He accepted she was “truthful and honest in relation to your perception of events that occurred”.

She was convinced she “is right and everyone else is wrong”, he said. Combined with her personal turmoil, which cannot be underestimated, the proceedings appeared to be “in the nature of a crusade” against the Bar Council, he said.

Ms Houston, who said the judgment meant “I am officially not a human being”, said she would be appealing it and would also go to the European Court of Justice.

The case arose after two solicitors made separate complaints about Ms Houston directly contacting clients they had previously acted for. Under their code of conduct, barristers can only be consulted through a solicitor.

Mr Justice Twomey said this led to the PCT advising Ms Houston only to contact clients in accordance with the code. The judge said somehow the PCT’s handling of this relatively minor complaint “led to a very extreme reaction” from her and led to her issuing five sets of proceedings over five years.

As a result, the defendants incurred legal costs of at least €500,000, he said.

Ms Houston said she has no assets and is no longer a member of the Law Library which entailed her agreeing to the barristers’ code of conduct on being called to the bar in 2008.

Mr Justice Twomey said:

“This case also illustrates how the high costs of litigation, particularly of unmeritorious litigation, can have a very significant impact upon insurance costs, in this case, the insurance costs of the professional body representing barristers, which increased by 300%.”

An impecunious plaintiff can take a claim, which does not have any merit, and inflict enormous costs on a defendant. This was one of those rare cases whereby the defendant by winning still loses because they are unable to recover those costs against an impecunious plaintiff, he said.

Ms Houston, who represented herself in the case, was too closely connected with the dispute to provide herself with objective legal advice and this was why these proceedings, which started in 2014, “are still in being at enormous expense”.

The judge adjourned to next week the making of formal orders in the case including a possible order preventing her from taking further cases against the defendants without court permission.

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