On Tuesday 15 November 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat made an order closing down the “Solicitors from Hell” website.  Under the terms of this order the site’s operator, Rick Kordowski, was required to remove the Website from the Internet “forthwith”.Although 17 individual claims have been brought by solicitors and law firms, this action claim was brought by the Law Society, one firm and one individual solicitor as a “representative action” (under CPR 19.6).  Those represented were all the solicitors and organisations presently listed on the website and those at risk of being listed in the future.  The claimants argued that the inclusion of anyone on the website was, in itself, defamatory as it involved them being branded as a “Solicitor from Hell”.  It was also argued that inclusion of individuals on the website constituted “harassment” and unlawful data processing.

The claimants argued that while there was no objection to proper criticism of the legal profession or debate about whether a particular solicitor has failed to provide service of appropriate quality the website made no contribution whatever to such debates.  Instead it set out to provide a forum for the publication of malicious and defamatory allegations about solicitors.

Mr Kordowski, who represented himself, argued that he had an Article 10 right to continue publication and that the individuals and firms represented on the website should each bring separate defamation actions.  He had served a defence but this was out of time out of time and the claimants sought default judgment on the basis that no arguable defence was advanced.

This argument was accepted by Mr Justice Tugendhat who entered judgment in default of defence for the claimants.   He described the order being sought as a “novel” one and said that he would give his full reasons later.  The precise details of the order would be finalised at that time but, in the meantime, he ordered the site to be taken down and continued an order preventing Mr Kordowski from transferring it to any third party.  The order has been complied with and the website is no longer operating.

The Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson commented:

‘This website has served simply as a vehicle for pursuing personal grudges and vendettas against conscientious and reputable firms and legal professionals. Far from being of any help to consumers, it has been a danger. I feared the website was directing people in real need of help away from professionals best placed to assist them“.

Mr Kordowski told the Law Society Gazette that he intends to ‘leave this matter to the next generation’ and is unlikely to relaunch the site.  He added: ‘It’s a sad day for freedom of speech and the court’s decision has deprived the public of a valuable warning system.’ He said he expects similar sites to spring up in its place.

There are articles about the decision in the Lawyer and the Daily Telegraph.   We have had previous posts on the cases of Robins v Kordowski [2011] EWHC 981 (QB)) (see here), Awdry, Bailey and Douglas v Kordowksi, Farrall v Kordowksi [2010] EWHC 2436 (QB) (see here), Phillips v Kordowski and Mazzola v Kordowski.