Iris Koh, the founder of the anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, is back at it again.
In case you’re unaware, Koh is currently facing two criminal charges: one for obstructing a police officer from discharging their duty, and another for defrauding the Ministry of Health (MOH) over fake COVID-19 records.
And as if Koh wasn’t in enough legal trouble, she decides to annoy the people who could help and argue for her in court, namely her lawyers, by choosing not to pay them for their dues.
When the lawyers realised that the previous invoices they sent to Koh went unpaid, the lawyers did what they do best…
They filed a statutory demand to compel Koh to pay the balance of about $30,000.
The Work of The Previous Lawyers
Iris Koh may have crowdfunded $100,000 for her legal fees, but she isn’t very keen on paying lawyers that didn’t do a good job in her eyes.
Koh was first summoned to court and charged in early January, which was when she hired defence counsel Clarence Lun and his team from Fervent Chambers LLC.
Mr Lun’s work could be roughly segmented into a few portions.
Firstly, Mr Lun and his team put forward a criminal motion for Koh to be released on bail right before the Chinese New Year festivities.
A High Court judge subsequently dismissed it under the premise that Koh had been uncooperative with authorities, in addition to the fact that she had been remanded for an non-bailable offence.
However, it should be noted that she was released on bail for $20,000 a few days later, as the prosecution deemed that Koh need not be kept in custody to assist the investigations any further.
Secondly, Mr Lun and his team were involved in a potential judicial review application over COVID-19 advisories issued by the Ministry of Manpower.
In legalese, a judicial review seeks to ensure that the law isn’t in conflict with the doctrines of role of law and separation of powers, or inconsistent with the Constitution.
Truth to be told, maybe “having to handle Iris Koh and her husband” deserves its own compensation as well…
Finer Details of The Contract
Supreme Court assistant registrar Gan Kim Yuin noted that the contract of engagement between Koh and her lawyers was for:
- An hourly rate of S$500 for the criminal motion and earlier court proceedings
- An agreed fee of S$2,500 for withdrawing an originating summons
- An hourly rate of S$500 for the potential judicial review application, subject to an overall fixed fee of S$70,000 that is payable over four months.
Next, it’s important to consider that the criminal motion was put together and submitted in a short period of time.
The motion was also heard on 31 January, the eve of the Chinese New Year period.
It’s unclear when Iris Koh changed lawyers, but her request to go overseas to seek alternative treatment for her thyroid cancer was approved on 17 June, and this legal request was handled by her new lawyer.
Moreover, Fervent Chamber filed the statutory demand on 21 March, after Koh failed to pay several invoices, so it can be assumed that the working relationship broke down before that.
The Court Proceedings
Of course, the 42-year-old tried to countermand the statutory demand by applying for it to be set aside, but Ms Gan dismissed her application.
The whole court proceeding basically boiled down to a matter of how much the previous lawyers deserved to be paid for their work.
Koh made a few arguments, like how Mr Lun had overcharged her for the work done and that they didn’t follow her instructions.
The lawyers claimed a total of $24,125, whereas Koh believed that they were entitled to only S$5,000.
Prior to this, Mr Lun had agreed on a S$1 discount due to a disagreement over whether the lawyers had obeyed instructions about Koh’s request for access to counsel.
A $1 discount in a five-digit bill… How generous?
To be fair, Koh’s bargaining skills are pretty sharp too.
Although Ms Gan accepted Koh’s argument that the bail was not a “complex or unique area or law”, she pointed out that Koh had failed to acknowledge that the lawyers were put to task at short notice and over a weekend that led up to a public holiday.
Ms Gan also ruled that Koh’s argument about the lawyers being unable to advise her or take her instructions while she was remanded, was “without merit”.
In fact, the registrar went as far as describing Koh’s attitude towards her former lawyers as “ungracious”.
Apparently, Koh mostly communicated with Mr Lun’s team with her husband Raymond Ng acting as the middleman, and it was an arrangement that Koh had authorised too.
Ms Gan said, “I note that the client took the benefit of the work that was done through the husband. It is ungracious, to say the least, for the client to disavow the advice and the instructions that flowed through the husband.”
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The Abuse From The Husband
Aside from Koh’s refusal to pay the legal fees because she felt that her former lawyers didn’t deserve them, Raymond Ng proved to be quite the piece of work as well.
During the 11 May hearing, Ms Gan commented on the e-mails that Mr Ng had sent Mr Lun while Koh was in police custody.
Mr Lun claimed in an affidavit—a signed statement of fact made under oath—that he was subjected to abuse from the other man.
According to the court documents, there was one e-mail where Mr Ng referred to the $1 discount, saying that he sues people “as a hobby” and has “no qualms bringing lawyers to court”.
In another email, he wrote, “Putting our understanding aside, do note, I am your CLIENT at that point of time, YOU are my SERVANT. You are obliged to obey EVERY of my instruction even if you knew they were wrong.”
Sir, I don’t think that’s a relationship brokered by trust works…
At one point, Mr Ng even swore at Mr Lun, and told him to “mark your next steps very very carefully”.
You would think after the entire debacle that was Hilary Clinton’s presidential election and her e-mail scandals, people would stop leaving incriminating and/or offensive evidence in their e-mails.
In response, Koh’s new lawyer, Mr Mohamed Arshad from Fernandez LLC, agreed that the “vulgarities and abuse [were] regrettable” but argued that it didn’t come directly from Koh.
Ms Gan proceeded to tell Koh and her lawyer to not “hide behind the fact” that the e-mails came from Raymond Ng.
At the end of the court proceedings, Supreme Court assistant registrar Gan Kim Yuin ordered Iris Koh to pay about S$23,000 in professional legal fees to her former lawyers.
Iris Koh is due back in court on 27 July for her other criminal charges.
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Featured Image: Facebook (Iris Koh)
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