Three lawyers, including Zaid Ibrahim, are suing the Malaysian Bar and its president over a statement accusing them of abusing and tarnishing the justice system when representing former prime minister Najib Razak in his final SRC International appeal.
Zaid, Liew Teck Huat and Rueben Mathiavaranam filed the suit through the legal firm of Messrs Zaid Ibrahim Suflan TH Liew & Partners (ZIST) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sept 30.
They named the Malaysian Bar and its president, Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, as the first and second defendants.
Lawyer Lim Qi Si, representing the three plaintiffs, said case management was held today before senior assistant registrar Nuur Fatimahtul Zuhra Khairuddin, who set Dec 13 for further case management.
"The court also ordered both defendants to file their statement of defence on or before Nov 7 and for the plaintiffs to reply on or before Nov 28," the lawyer said when contacted today.
In their statement of claim, the three plaintiffs said that on Aug 19, Cheah had wrongfully and maliciously published a press statement with the title "Abuse of Process Brings Disrepute to Our Justice System" on the official website of the Malaysian Bar, which is the first defendant, and that the statement was also published by The Edge Markets, Malay Mail and The Star.
They claimed that the press statement meant, among others, that they had abused the court process and committed professional misconduct by accepting Najib’s case and had to face disciplinary action for bringing the legal profession into disrepute.
The three lawyers claimed that the defendants failed or refused to contact them to confirm the facts before issuing the press statement and did not give them a chance to state their version of the story.
They claimed that the Malaysian Bar and Cheah should have referred to the disciplinary board under Section 99 (1) of the Legal Profession Act before accusing them of professional misconduct for representing Najib in the appeal case.
Both defendants breached their statutory obligations by issuing a press statement before doing so, they said.
According to the plaintiffs, Section 99 (1) of the Legal Profession Act states that any complaint concerning the conduct of any advocate and solicitor shall be in writing and shall in the first place be made or referred to the disciplinary board.
The plaintiffs claimed that a letter was issued on Aug 26 for the two defendants to withdraw the publication of the press statement and apologise to the plaintiffs, but that it was rejected by the defendants through their lawyers, Messrs Lee Hishammudin Allen & Gledhill, on Sept 2.
The plaintiffs also claimed that the publication of the press statement had caused their reputation to be tarnished and that the breach of statutory duty by the defendants had prejudiced the plaintiffs.
They said they were seeking general and aggravated damages, interest and costs, as well as an injunction to prevent the first and second defendants or their agents from publishing similar defamatory words against them.
On July 26, Najib appointed ZIST to represent him in his final appeal against his conviction and sentence at the Federal Court after terminating the services of Messrs Shafee & Co with immediate effect.