Courts to hear country's first ever civil claim to be brought against practising lawyer
The Brunei courts are set to hear their first civil suit against a lawyer accused of unfit conduct. Prominent Brunei architects firm Booty Edwards & Rakan-Rakan has accused a senior partner in a local law firm of threatening behaviour and attempted bribery. The lawyer, Dr Ronnie Lee Pui Man, is a senior partner in one of the Sultanate's most respected commercial law firms, Pengiran Izad & Lee, which is based in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. Lee, who denies the charges, is set to appear in the Brunei High Court Chambers this week and must file his own affidavit within the next two weeks. The initial hearing will take place before the chief justice under the Legal Profession Act 1999, the legislation which lays down the code of conduct for lawyers. Two Booty Edwards partners, Kenneth Davies and Visnu Sakdiyakorn, have both filed affidavits with the court. Sakdiyakorn describes Lee's behaviour as "coercive and threatening". Dr Lee strenuously denies the allegations and has submitted a letter to the architects, denying any threatening intention and offering an apology. He refused to comment on the case, but told The Lawyer: "You'll see what happens; the truth will prevail." Booty Edwards tried to bring a suit in late 2000, but the court dropped the case following assurances from Lee. New evidence, including an affidavit from the former president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, has led to its resurrection by Booty Edwards. Brunei, which is best known here for the activities of the Sultan's brother Prince Jefri, has no foreign law firms. The oil-rich Islamic state is still dominated by local firms, which service the energy industry. However, some foreign firms, including Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith, do work for the government as well as international energy companies such as Brunei Shell.