The Singapore Attorney-General has appointed counsels from WongPartnership LLP to represent him against an action brought by 11 death row prisoners against him.
Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo–a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament (MP)–will lead the A-G’s team.
The 11 death row inmates–comprising seven Singaporeans and at least three Malaysians–are bringing the action jointly against a Superintendent of Changi Prison.
The Superintendent has appointed Abraham Vergis and his legal team from Providence Law Asia LLC.
Ravi Madasamy of Carson Law Chambers, the solicitor-in-charge for the 11 death row prisoners, said in a Facebook post on Thursday (22 October) that the action was filed “to interrogate prison and AG on various matters in a pre-action discovery”.
Mr Yeo served as MP for Hong Kah GRC from 2006 to 2011 and for Chua Chu Kang GRC from 2011 to 2015.
He was not fielded in the 2015 general election.
Two overcharging complaints against counsel
Mr Yeo was embroiled in two separate overcharging complaints: The first involved renowned surgeon Susan Lim, while the second pertained to a wealthy elderly woman in her 80s.
Dr Lim was ordered to pay for the SMC’s costs after losing a dispute which accused her of overcharging her wealthy Bruneian patient. SMC was represented by Mr Yeo.
The widow in the separate case had inherited about S$200 million and was at the time expected to receive another S$100 million from her late father’s estate.
In Dr Lim’s case, a review committee (RC) was appointed to review the overcharging complaint against Mr Yeo.
The RC dismissed Dr Lim’s husband’s complaint against Mr Yeo as “lacking in substance”.
It based its decision on WongPartnership’s assertion that Mr Yeo was not personally involved in the preparation of the bills and that there was therefore no misconduct on his part.
Dr Lim’s husband then applied to High Court for a judicial review of the decision by the RC.
In 2017, Dr Lim’s husband lost his appeal in challenging the decision by the RC to dismiss his complaint against Mr Yeo of overcharging.
The Court of Appeal ruled that RC had not committed an error of law.
It upheld the legal principle put forward by RC that, in the absence of proof that a lawyer has put up improper or fraudulent claims, a significant reduction by the court of costs would not, in and of itself, amount to professional misconduct.
In the widow’s case, her two sisters had applied to the Family Court under the Mental Capacity Act to have the widow declared to be lacking the mental capacity to manage her assets and affairs.
They sought to be appointed as her deputies to act for her as they alleged that the widow’s youngest daughter and son-in-law were unduly influencing the widow.
Mr Yeo at the time acted for the widow’s daughter and son-in-law, opposing their aunts’ application.
The Family Court at first made the declaration as sought and appointed the two sisters as deputies.
When the matter went before the Court of Appeal, the widow was found to be mentally impaired and unfit to make decisions. Instead of her sisters, financial and legal professionals were appointed as deputies for the widow.
The court also highlighted the size of the fees and directed the matter to be referred for investigation. However, it stressed that it had not arrived at any conclusion at the time as to whether or not there was professional misconduct.
While a disciplinary tribunal (DT) in May last year cleared Mr Yeo of overcharging the widow, the Attorney-General and the Law Society had separately applied to have the DT’s decision to clear Mr Yeo reviewed.
The High Court in January this year set aside the said DT’s report.
Justice Valerie Thean found that the charges only concerned overcharging and not the larger question of the widow’s mental capacity.
The judge then directed the Law Society to apply to the Chief Justice to present its case on the new basis.
A new DT is set to hear the second overcharging complaint after the High Court decision.