Lawyer verbally abused his former client who challenged him for overcharging by €650,000

A solicitor who overcharged a publican by €650,000 for legal work verbally abused his former client during a hearing over the disputed bills, the High Court has said.

The court said solicitor Joe Buckley called the client “names of a most insulting and reprehensible nature” during a break in a hearing in front of Taxing Master Declan O’Neill in April 2014.

Details of the shocking incident were given in a judgment by Mr Justice Donald Binchy.

The judge dismissed a challenge by the Wicklow-based solicitor to the Taxing Master’s decision to cut bills charged to publican Denis Doyle.

Separate proceedings by Mr Doyle against Mr Buckley, seeking a sum of €565,000 in a client account, are set to go ahead following yesterday’s ruling.

Mr Buckley represented Mr Doyle and member of his family in a number of matters, including the sale of property, over 10 years from 1998. But the publican became concerned about overcharging and the alleged use of money in the client account to discharge fees.

The overcharging concerns went before the Taxing Master, who decides on disputes over legal costs arising from litigation.

According to the judgment, Mr Buckley initially denied the outburst at the hearing.

However, he was contradicted by a stenographer who overheard what happened.

The Taxing Master later listened to a digital audio recording of the proceedings, which confirmed Mr Buckley had made the remarks.

Mr Buckley “immediately apologised” for what he had said and for misleading the Taxing Master, claiming he made the comments out of frustration at evidence given by Mr Doyle.

However, the outburst led Mr O’Neill to doubt the solicitor’s evidence in relation to a number of bills.

Mr Buckley had alleged the Taxing Master did not have jurisdiction to tax some of the bills and sought a review of the examination conducted.

But in his ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Binchy rejected the solicitor’s objections.

The judgment outlined several instances of overcharging.

These included occasions where the solicitor billed for time spent in court when he was not actually present.

In one matter, the sale of landfill lands, Mr Buckley issued invoices totalling €111,250 for what he claimed was 145 hours’ work.

However, Mr O’Neill estimated the amount of time involved was 52.75 hours and ruled that the appropriate fee was €40,000.

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