PUTRAJAYA: Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has succeeded at the Federal Court to challenge the Bar Council over a decision to fine him RM5,000 for misconduct after he gave a press interview that was deemed to be self-serving.
“This is a landmark judgment as the apex court had decided for the first time what amounts to publicity and advertisement,” he said.
“This is the first time such a case against the Bar Council was deliberated up to the Federal Court and with such an outcome,” he added.
Earlier, Court of Appeal president Justice Md Raus Sharif, who chaired a five-man panel, held that Muhammad Shafee did not breach the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules 2001 over the media interview in 2009.
“We agree with the Court of Appeal on this. Look at the statement and context it was made.
“There was no publicising on (his part). We are unanimous in our decision,” he said yesterday.
He ordered the Bar Council to pay RM50,000 to Muhammad Shafee in costs.
Lawyer Arthur Wang Ming Way, who acted for the Bar Council, said later that “this is a rare case where a lawyer succeeded in challenging the Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board in the Federal Court.” The Disciplinary Board is set up under the Legal Profession Act.
At the hearing, Muhammad Shafee asked the court to set costs at RM300,000, saying that the Bar Council should be taught a lesson for what he claimed was selective prosecution against him.
He argued that the Bar Council was trying to penalise him by saying that he was seeking publicity when he had merely responded to questions by a reporter over various allegations against him such as accusations that he was bribing some judges.
That, he said, was not an offence as he was not promoting himself nor trying to get more cases.
Wang, however, argued that there were specific rules imposed on the lawyers which prohibited them from stating “I am the best or I am the expert” in certain area of law despite it being the truth.
“It was obvious there was no need to publicise it in the publication. He is a senior member of the Bar.”
Wang submitted that the matter was within the domain of the Disciplinary Board and not for the court to interfere.
Muhammad Shafee lost in his bid on Jan 10, 2014 to reverse a decision by the Disciplinary Board which fined him for professional misconduct.
In July last year, the Court of Appeal however allowed his appeal to set aside the order.
Under Rule 15(1)(b) of the Rules 2001, any lawyer who consented to be interviewed by the press should not be seen by the Bar Council as attempting to publicise his practice or his firm.
The issue came about on Oct 5, 2012 when the Disciplinary Board fined Muhammad Shafee RM5,000 following a complaint by then Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan that he had breached the Legal Profession Act by publicising himself and his legal firm when he gave an interview which was published on Sept 27, 2009.