This post originally appeared on Media Lawyer, the indispensable subscription service from the Press Association covering all aspects of media law. It is reproduced with permission and thanks.
On 23 September 2010 a solicitor who has been the subject of allegedly defamatory postings on a website called Solicitors from Hell won an interim injunction against the man who runs the operation ordering him to remove the allegations from the site.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart granted the order against Rick Kordowski following an application by barrister Guy Vassall-Adams, representing Anna Mazzola, a solicitor with London law firm Hickman Rose, following a brief hearing in a Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.
It is exceptionally rare for interim injunctions intended to stop publication of allegedly defamatory material to be granted in defamation cases because of the rule in the 1891 case of Bonnard v Perryman, which states that an order should not be granted if a defendant says he or she will justify an allegation.
An interim order can, however, be granted if it appears that a defendant is unlikely to succeed a trial. The rule is intended to protect the general right to freedom of expression.
Mr Vassall-Adams argued that the material about Ms Mazzola on the website – http://solicitorsfromhell.co.uk/ – was undoubtedly defamatory and that there were no grounds for concluding that it might be true.
Mr Kordowski had not pleaded a proper justification defence, or produced evidence to support the allegations, but had simply argued that they might be true. In addition, Mr Kordowski had no other defence to Ms Mazzola’s defamation action, and there was also evidence of an intention to continue publishing the defamatory material.
Mr Vassall-Adams said Solicitors from Hell was a grievance website which allowed members of the public to post anonymous complaints about solicitors, and that Mr Kordowski appeared to be willing to publish very serious defamatory allegations without any prior check to establish their truth or accuracy.
Mr Kordowski then used publication of the defamatory allegations as a way of extorting the solicitors and firms concerned to pay him to remove articles from the website, he added.
This is not the first time that the Solicitors from Hell website and Mr Kordowski – who today represented himself as a litigant in person – have featured in a defamation action.
On June 1 solicitor Scott Eason, principal of Eason Law, which is based in the north-east, settled a libel action against Mr Kordowski after he removed the material from his website, sent Mr Eason a personal apology, and gave an undertaking not to re-publish the allegations or similar claims.
Mr Eason – who is understood to have agreed not to try to claim damages or his costs because Mr Kordowski would have been unable to pay them – said then that he launched his libel action because he felt very strongly about the allegations published and could not allow them to remain on the internet.
Mr Kordowski had refused to take the allegations down without payment, he said, adding: “As a matter of principle I refused to pay Mr Kordowski any money and he left me with no option but to issue libel proceedings against him.“