Judge hits out at ex-Mishcons boss for retaining documents

Former Mishcon de Reya managing partner Anthony Julius has been criticised by Mr Justice Peter Smith for failing to return documents to a former client.

As first reported by The Lawyer (31 October), Julius was taken to court by Amir Weissfisch to force the return of documents generated while Julius was on a £15,000-a-month joint retainer to Weissfisch. Julius contended that Weissfisch was not entitled to original documents because of the joint retainer.

In his judgment, Smith J was scathing. “I regard Mr Julius’s stance pre the litigation as being negative and delaying,” he said. “My inevitable conclusion is that Mr Julius has brought these proceedings on himself by his unreasonable stance.”

Prior to the case, Julius’s lawyers at Clifford Chance (he has since switched to Allen & Overy (A&O)) wrote to Weissfisch, asking him to “identify any documents you believe are in Mr Julius’s possession… If there are any, he will, of course, return them.”

Smith J said this stance had been completely unacceptable. “The idea that a client has to tell a solicitor what documents he has is, in my view, ridiculous,” he said.

Julius’s lack of foresight about the vague retainer letter was also raised by Smith J. He said: “Mr Julius… is, of course, a solicitor of the Supreme Court and ought to have been aware of the potential difficulties caused by this letter.” Julius was ordered to pay costs.

The case is part of a number in the UK and the Bahamas that pitched Weissfisch against his brother Rami and involved Julius.

Julius’s lawyer Richard Smith, a litigation partner at A&O, commented: “The other defendants agreed that Mr Julius did entirely the right thing by protecting their confidential papers. Amir Weissfisch has not established any legal right to these papers and he failed twice to obtain them on a summary basis. The judge ruled earlier that Mr Weissfisch had commenced these proceedings on a ‘wrong footing’ and that responding to them threw a ‘considerable burden’ on Mr Julius.

“Mr Julius has decided not to appeal the judge’s latest decision because it relates only to costs for which the other defendants had already agreed to indemnify him.”