The president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has backed an employment tribunal’s finding of ‘appalling’ behaviour by a solicitor in a strongly worded judgment.
Mr Justice Langstaff (pictured) told the solicitor, Godfrey Morgan of Norfolk firm Godfrey Morgan Solicitors Limited (trading as GMS Law), that a ‘vanishingly small’ legal technicality being relied upon had ‘no other effect than to increase the cost of proceedings’. He reminded Morgan that as a solicitor he was an officer of the court and had a ‘general obligation’ to help it pursue justice. ‘It is no part of a solicitor’s practice to frustrate that process,’ Langstaff said.
Morgan was also criticised for sending a trainee in his place to a tribunal hearing. Morgan said that he had been overseas at the time. The EAT backed his appeals against orders to produce his ticket, on the grounds that they had been poorly drafted.
The case arose from a claim brought by a paralegal leaving the firm for a month’s wages, money she said she was owed by ‘Godfrey Morgan Solicitors t/a GMS Law’.
The firm responded that there was a firm, Godfrey Morgan Solicitors, of which Godfrey Morgan was a partner, and also a company, Godfrey Morgan Solicitors Limited t/a GMS Law, of which he was a director. However, there was no firm or company of the name the paralegal had supplied, as she had omitted the word ‘Limited’. It followed, the firm argued, that she could never have been employed by a non-existent entity and so the tribunal had no jurisdiction.
The EAT judgment described this argument as relying on a ‘vanishingly small’ technicality. It said the employment judge was ‘fully entitled to come to the conclusion as to the way in which a professionally competent and reasonable representative would have acted. He viewed the conduct... as appalling’. It dismissed the appeal on this point and sent the case back to be heard by a ‘freshly constituted’ tribunal.
Richard Clegg, a senior solicitor at Godfrey Morgan Solicitors Limited t/a GMS Law, said: ‘It is not appropriate to comment while the case is proceeding.’