On 24 October 2011, Saoirse sent a complaint to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal against Damian Brass (Dolores' solicitor and co-executor of her estate) and Langdon Jaggers (co-executor of Dolores' estate, and the solicitor who, by family reports, was intimately involved with the transfer of Cecil and Dolores' assets to Ethan surrounding the purchase of the property in Finglas in 2005).
Damian Brass and Langdon Jaggers were exonerated on 12 June 2012, when the Tribunal issued the following decision:
(Typo in the original)
[Editor's note: The Latin term “prima facie” means “on the face of it” or “at first appearance.” In the law, it means that the evidence seems to be sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence to refute it. For example, a receipt for mailing a registered letter is prima facie proof that it was delivered to the person to whom it was addressed unless proven otherwise. ]
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is a body composed of thirty people – twenty solicitors and ten lay people. The solicitors are all practising solicitors of not less than ten years standing. The lay people are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds and their remit is to represent the interests of the general public. The Tribunal is appointed by the President of the High Court. Its purpose is to consider complaints of misconduct against solicitors. It has many of the powers of the High Court. It can subpoena witnesses and documents. It can impose fines on solicitors. It can refer a solicitor to the High court for censure or expulsion from the rolls of practicing solicitors.
A complaint to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal is dealt with by a “division” of the Tribunal. Each of the ten divisions is composed of two solicitors and one lay person.
In essence, the process works like this:
- A complaint is filed by the “Applicant” with the Tribunal, via affidavit and supporting exhibits. This affidavit is of course sworn under “penalty of perjury,” which historically is taken much less seriously in Ireland than in other jurisdictions like the UK or US.
- The application, grounding affidavit and all exhibits are then copied by the Registrar of the Tribunal to the Law Society, and the “Respondent Solicitor(s).”
- The Respondent Solicitor(s) have twenty–eight days to provide a “Responding Affidavit” and exhibits to the Tribunal. This timeframe includes bank holidays, but not Saturdays or Sundays. This response is then copied to the Law Society and the Applicant.
- Now it is the Applicant's turn to provide a “Further Affidavit” and exhibits in twenty–eight days, if the Applicant desires to do so. This is confined to addressing matters raised in the “Responding Affidavit.” Usually this ends the exchange.
- According to the Rules, in “exceptional cases” the Respondent Solicitor(s) may seek permission from the Tribunal to lodge a “Third Responding Affidavit” and has twenty-eight days to do so after receiving the “Further Affidavit” and is confined to addressing matters raised in the “Further Affidavit.”
From the Rules: “Such exceptional cases shall be confined to circumstances where the overriding interests of justice require that such an additional responding affidavit by or on behalf of the respondent solicitor should be permitted by the Tribunal…”
- If there is a “Third Responding Affidavit”, then the Applicant can provide a third affidavit, confined to addressing matters raised in the “Third Responding Affidavit”.
- At any point during this process, The Law Society may request the Tribunal to allow it to make its own new Application regarding the solicitor(s) or to undertake on behalf of the original Applicant the prosecution of the existing Application
- Now the division of the Tribunal that this is assigned to will make a decision on whether or not there is a prima facie case on each allegation in the complaint. According to the Rules, this decision is “made on the basis of and upon due consideration of the affidavit or affidavits (and any documents exhibited thereto) furnished to the Tribunal Registrar by or on behalf of the Applicant and by or on behalf of the Respondent Solicitor.”
- If the Tribunal division decides there is a prima facie case of misconduct (that is, there seems to be misconduct at first appearance or on the face of it), then a public Inquiry will be held in a hearing room at the Tribunal where witnesses can be called and oral arguments are made, etc.
- If the Tribunal division decides there is no prima facie case of misconduct (that is, that there seems to be no misconduct at first appearance or that the evidence of such was disproved), then the parties are informed of their decision and the reasons for that decision on each complaint, and no further action is taken by the Tribunal.
Here are two examples from Saoirse's complaint, complete with the supporting evidence by both sides. We think it both important and instructive to see how each example played out through this process. We continue to use pseudonyms at this time, and have redacted addresses, phone numbers, etc. Otherwise, what follows is a true copy of everything the Tribunal saw for each of these two examples. To view the underlying documents, click the blue buttons.
The Application from Saoirse
Sworn 24 October 2011:
Paragraph 3, Section 3
3) The respondent solicitor(s) is/are guilty of misconduct in that he/she/they: Issued a threatening letter to one of its client's sons, Conor Maxwell, after Conor was prevented from seeing his mother as prearranged. The said letter warned Conor Maxwell that an Order would be sought against him if he tried to see his mother again. This letter was issued with an illegible signature and no name. The respondent solicitors have confirmed the letter issued from them. They decline to respond on whose authority they sent the letter. (EXHIBIT C – Pages 332-356)
Email to Conor Maxwell on 24 September 2010 from his sister Saoirse Maxwell, inquiring about an attempted visit to their Mother, Dolores Maxwell during August 2010.
- Conor Maxwell's reply to Saoirse Maxwell on 24 September 2010, detailing the events of his attempted visit to Dolores Maxwell.
- Letter sent to Conor Maxwell dated 13 September 2010 from Jaggers and Brass Solicitors.
- Conor Maxwell's correspondence to Jaggers and Brass Solicitors 24 September 2010. This correspondence was never replied to by Jaggers and Brass Solicitors.
- Saoirse Maxwell's correspondence to Damian Brass 24 September 2010. This correspondence was never replied to by Damian Brass or Jaggers and Brass Solicitors.
- Automated reply to Saoirse Maxwell's correspondence from Damian Brass
- Correspondence to Jaggers and Brass Solicitors from Conor Maxwell 01 October 2010
- File copy of correspondence dated 08 July 2011 from Saoirse Maxwell, sent by Registered Post to Damian Brass, asking if the letter to Conor Maxwell of 13 September 2010 was issued by Jaggers and Brass.
[Editor's note: The pertinent parts of this and the following two letters have been highlighted. ]
- Correspondence from Damian Brass to Saoirse Maxwell on 11 July 2011 affirming Jaggers and Brass did in fact issue the letter in question.
- File copy of correspondence from Saoirse Maxwell to Damian Brass dated 18 July 2011, sent by Registered Post seeking more clarification regarding the letter issued by Jaggers and Brass Solicitors to Conor Maxwell on 13 July 2010. Damian Brass has not replied.
Paragraph 4, Section 6
6) Issued a threatening letter to one of its client's sons, Conor Maxwell, in a manner not befitting the legal profession.
The Responding Affidavit from Damian Brass
Sworn 08 December 2011:
[Editor's note: Brass' Exhibit E, the letter sent to Conor, is of course the same letter as sent to Saoirse, detailed in The Solicitor's Letter. The astute reader will probably note that Damian's Response and Exhibits have nothing whatsoever to do with Saoirse's complaint about the threatening letter of 13 September 2010. ]
The Further Affidavit from Saoirse
Sworn 16 January 2011:
- In paragraph 12 of Damian Brass' Affidavit of 08 December 2011 he states “...the Applicant claims that I issued a threatening letter to Conor Maxwell, one of her brothers and that it was issued with an illegible signature and no name. The Applicant further claims that I have declined to confirm on whose authority the letter was sent. These claims have no validity.” I note that the threatening letter was dated 13 September 2010, and refer to my Grounding Affidavit, paragraph 3, and Exhibit C, pages 332-356 of my original complaint to show that these claims are valid. I exhibit the 13 September 2010 letter here in Exhibit C, page 92.
- I note that in paragraph 12 of Damian Brass' Affidavit of 08 December 2011 he refers to a different letter sent to Conor Maxwell which was dated 04 January 2010, not the letter to Conor Maxwell dated 13 September 2010. Because of inaccuracies in Damian Brass' statements about this 04 January letter, I respond in my following paragraphs, numbered 145 to 151.
- Referring to the 04 January 2010 letter to Conor, Damian Brass states “I have told the applicant on numerous occasions that the letter was sent to Conor on the instructions of Dolores Maxwell.” Damian Brass' statement is false. He never informed me that letter was written to Conor. I exhibit a letter from me to Damian Brass dated 10 January 2010. See Exhibit C pages 80 to 81 in which I sought to find out from him which of my siblings received this letter apart from me. I also express my concern that he was acting on instructions from Ethan Maxwell. I exhibit a letter from Damian Brass to me dated 13 January 2010 in which he states “Likewise, I have no authority to confirm to whom I wrote on 4th January. If it is of any assistance, I can say that a number of your siblings were included, apart from Nathaniel.” See Exhibit C, page 82. Again, Damian Brass has never told me even once that the letter was sent to Conor Maxwell or on whose instructions it was sent either in his correspondence to me or in any conversation with me.
- In paragraph 12 of Damian Brass' Affidavit of 08 December 2011 he exhibits the “written instructions of Dolores Maxwell” dated 30 December 2009, which he denotes with the letter “F.” I also exhibit these instructions here for convenience. See Exhibit B, pages 61 to 62. Concerning Mom's Enduring Power of Attorney (which was made in May 2009) the author of this letter states “Such reference and other matters encouraged me to appoint trustworthy non-family members with enduring power of attorney.” The author also states “I request that Jaggers and Brass write by registered post to my children as my solicitor informing them that I have appointed attorneys, suitably experienced and trustworthy non-family members, in the event of me being incapable or becoming incapable of managing my own affairs…” The author of this letter is misinformed. Mom's Enduring Power of Attorney appointed but a single Attorney, Damian Brass. See Exhibit B, page 59 in which Damian Brass in his Attendance record notes that he is the sole attorney.
- I note that the author of these instructions uses incorrect addresses for two of Mom's children (even though at least one had just recently received a Christmas card from her at the correct address) and that the author is unaware of the address of a third child, Mom's oldest child, Nathaniel Maxwell.
- The author of the “written instructions from Dolores Maxwell” which Damian Brass acted on also states in these instructions “…I do not want my children to concern themselves with regard to my finances…” I exhibit a letter to Damian Brass from me dated 26 February 2010 in which I inform him (having been myself informed by the HSE Elder Abuse Services) that Ethan Maxwell was identifying himself as Mom's sole carer, and that he was claiming to have Power of Attorney. See Exhibit C, pages 84 to 85. If Damian Brass believed these instructions were from my Mom, I do not understand why he was not aroused enough to take some action regarding Ethan Maxwell's claim of Power of Attorney. I submit that Damian Brass was guilty of misconduct in not protecting his client Dolores Maxwell in this regard. (There never was a Power of Attorney registered with the courts. Ethan Maxwell continued to claim Power of Attorney over all Mom's affairs and medical decisions, including when Mom was admitted to Wexford General on 26 September 2010, at which time he instructed that none of her children or family members were to be notified or given any information about Mom.)
- The author of the “written instructions from Dolores Maxwell” also states in these instructions concerning Nathaniel Maxwell's address “You should be able to find an address on google/RICS website.” This statement is crossed out and an address for Nathaniel Maxwell hand printed above it. This address is demonstrably written by Ethan Maxwell. The author uses Nathaniel Maxwell's office address. Mom never used that address for Nathaniel Maxwell. I exhibit emails from Nathaniel Maxwell and me to each other dated 05 January 2010, which occurred after I was in receipt of the 04 January 2010 letter from Damian Brass. See Exhibit C, pages 78 to 79. The reference to Google is not from Mom. Mom did not type or use a computer. I submit that these instructions like so many other documents purportedly from Damian Brass' client Dolores Maxwell are in fact authored by his client Ethan Maxwell.
- In the letter from Damian Brass to me dated 13 January 2010 referenced above he states, speaking of the 04 January 2010 letter he sent “If it is of any assistance, I can say that a number of your siblings were included, apart from Nathaniel.” I note that a registered letter was sent to Nathaniel Maxwell at his office, and that the “instructions from Dolores Maxwell” included Nathaniel Maxwell in the list of children to be sent the letter from Damian Brass. Damian Brass confirms that this letter was sent to Nathaniel Maxwell. I Exhibit a letter from Damian Brass to Mom dated 13 January 2010 in which he states “The letter I sent Nathaniel was returned to me today, marked ‘not called for’.” See Exhibit C, page 83.
The above application, affidavits and exhibits constitute the entirety of the information that the three–member Division of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal would consider and base their decision on concerning the letter sent to Conor Maxwell on 13 September 2010. (As we now know, this letter was sent less than two weeks before time ran out for Dolores.)
The Division does not make a judgment on guilt or innocence. That is up to the Inquiry that is held if a Division decides that there is a prima facie case of misconduct. The question before them is this:
Is there a prima facie case for misconduct? That is, on the face of it, at first reading, does the evidence provided by Saoirse seem sufficient to prove misconduct? If so, was substantial contradictory evidence provided by Damian Brass to refute it?
[Editor's note: The Tribunal is described as an “Independent Body” and Saoirse was asked upon her application if there were any members of the Tribunal she wished not to serve on the three–person Division that would decide this case. She did in fact provide a handful of names, with their connections to Jaggers and Brass, that she felt should recuse themselves from involvement. The most current list of the thirty members is from 2010, and can be found here.
The Division that considered Saoirse's application was composed of one male solicitor, one female solicitor, and one male layperson, all of whom are on the 2010 list of Tribunal members. A non–exhaustive search found only the slightest connection to Jaggers and Brass on the part of one of the three members.
It is unknown who considered the Application at the Law Society. That information is being sought. As of yet, no report, letter or information of any kind has been forthcoming from the Law Society concerning this matter.
For the sake of disclosure, we note that at the time of Saoirse's Application in October 2011, the President of the Law Society was employed in the firm of Jaggers and Brass. The Presidency of the Law Society has changed since then. ]
After due consideration of all the above Affidavits and Exhibits, the Division made their decision:
We note that the considered decision of the Tribunal is grounded in Saoirse's complaint and evidence being successfully rebutted by Damian Brass' contradictory evidence. This is interesting, in that Damian Brass' Affidavit and evidence never mentioned the letter of September 2010, but instead relied solely on a letter and purported “instructions from Dolores” from December 2009 and January 2010. Neither of which had any connection whatsover with Saoirse's allegation or supporting evidence in the matter.
[Editor's note: WTF?! ]
[Editor's note: Example 2 is entitled simply Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Example 2.
As always, we seek and encourage anyone with knowledge of Dolores' life and/or the events presented here to contribute to this site. Memories, anecdotes, photos and documents are more than welcome. Clarification, correction and alternative views are encouraged and welcomed. Submissions ]