Barrister suspended and fined for calling judge rude
Published 08/04/2010 | 05:00
A BARRISTER who accused a judge of being rude and shouting at her in court has been suspended from practice for nine months and fined €5,000 after being found guilty of misconduct.
Angela Heavey was also ordered to attend court by the Barristers' Professional Conduct Appeals Board to "familiarise" herself with how civil and criminal trials were conducted "as part of the learning process", a disciplinary ruling published yesterday said.
Ms Heavey, who was called to the bar in 1998, was found guilty of misconduct contrary to the Code of Conduct for the Bar of Ireland on March 3 last.
And the findings were published because she failed to apologise in writing to High Court judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly for her behaviour in his court and for making unfounded allegations against him.
The proceedings arose after Ms Heavey, of Dunstaffnage Hall, Old Stillorgan Road, Co Dublin, was involved in a "complex" case.
She was representing Martin Power, who was involved in a dispute with an elderly couple, Patrick and Eileen O'Connor, over an option to purchase land in Co Wexford.
Mr Power lost the 2008 case, and, in his judgment, Mr Justice Kelly referred Ms Heavey to the Bar Council because of her "unacceptable behaviour both prior to and during the trial".
He said the case had been "extremely difficult" to preside over because she refused to accept court rulings and constantly interrupted proceedings, "to say nothing of the allegations of impropriety which she freely made".
In July last year the Professional Practices Committee of the Bar Council found Ms Heavey guilty of misconduct.
It also upheld complaints that she withdrew from a High Court action during the course of a trial, was discourteous to and disregarded the rulings of the High Court, applied to adjourn an action despite the absence of counsel for the opposite party, drafted a letter for a litigant without instructions from a solicitor, and made a submission to the court without being instructed by a solicitor.
She appealed the decision to the Barristers' Professional Conduct Appeals Board.
In her defence, she claimed she was not responsible for "wrongdoings" and that the tribunal erred in suspending her from the Law Library instead of disbarring or suspending her from practice "given the various findings of misconduct and the gravity of the behaviour".
Cross examining Mr Justice Kelly, who gave evidence at the appeal hearing, Ms Heavey claimed he had been "rude and insulting and had shouted at her". Mr Justice Kelly said that in 13 years as a High Court judge he had "never" encountered a situation where a barrister had "simply ignored" rulings and interrupted both he and opposing counsel.
In relation to the claim that she withdrew from the High Court action during a trial, she said she was "bullied and mistreated" by the court and that she was sick for the second day of the trial. However, she felt well enough to attend another court on an unrelated matter.
The tribunal refused the appeal, saying her conduct and behaviour in the High Court was "replicated" in the tribunal where she had a "persistent disregard" of its rulings.
"Her performance before the court and the tribunal does not elicit any sympathy from members of the Appeals Board," it found, and it had "no hesitation" in upholding the findings of the tribunal.
The ruling of March 3 last suspended her from the Law Library, ordered that a fine of €5,000 be paid and that she apologise in writing to Mr Justice Kelly for her behaviour.