A solicitor who referred to his opponent’s clients as ’Tweedledum and Tweedledee’ during the course of litigation has been reprimanded by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Richard Gregory Barca, a solicitor at Wilson Barca in London, admitted he had breached SRA rules by making offensive and derogatory comments to his opponent and his opponent’s clients during litigation.
The offensive remarks were made in correspondence to a solicitor at a firm referred to in the judgment as D & Co Solicitors.
In one email to the solicitor, Barca opened by asking: ‘Could you for once make an effort to behave like a normal person instead of a complete plonker?’, before going on to say ‘perhaps you should seek professional help with your illness’.
In a letter about events at an auction he said his opponent’s clients appeared to have ‘misunderstood the auction process’, which he suggested was either due to a lack of familiarity with the English language or their unfamiliarity with auctions.
Later, in emails about his opponents attending his office to inspect original documents as part of the disclosure process, he described a previous email sent by his opponent as ’petty and silly’, and then said: ‘We will give access to two people at our office to inspect originals. Mr Tweedledum can attend with his solicitor but not Mr Tweedledee’.
The solicitor warned Barca that he would take formal steps to complain about him if his correspondence continued to contain ‘any form of abuse’ or comments ‘unbecoming of a solicitor’. The solicitor’s client later complained to the SRA after the comments continued.
Responding to the investigation into his conduct, Barca admitted that his email calling the solicitor a ‘plonker’ and suggesting he seek medical help was ‘unfortunate’, but said it ‘needs to be read in the context of the entire correspondence, over 2,000 pages’.
His solicitor, Nigel West, said that at the time Barca had a medical condition that affected his temperament, in particular making him more angry in the afternoon when the emails were sent, and that the litigation was aggressively fought, with constant threats that if Barca did not immediately respond applications would be made to court.
He also noted that Barca was almost 60 years old, and had expressed regret and apologised for his comments, which he said was out of character.
The tribunal said that although the way the litigation was being conducted did not justify Barca’s comments, his medical condition did explain his responses.
‘It provided a credible explanation for what had happened where a litigator of many years experience who would have been accustomed to aggressive litigation over a long period and who was in the habit of conducting his own work in a robust way tipped over into unacceptable conduct’.
The tribunal also noted that Barca was embarrassed by the correspondence, and that this was a single piece of litigation in a 29-year ‘unblemished career’.
It therefore said he should be reprimanded, and also ordered him to pay the costs agreed at £2,600.