In a recent case involving lawyer Annabel Whittaker of Excello Law, who specialises in corporate and personal insolvency matters, an Insolvency and Company Court judge delivered a judgment regarding a challenge to a liquidator’s rejection of a proof of debt claim in a solvent liquidation. The case, Irena Ferme v Simon Matthew Gwinnutt (as joint liquidator of Emma Property Management Limited), centred on an appeal against the refusal to admit a proof of debt.
In the first part of the judgment, which was delivered verbally at the hearing, ICC Judge Jones had both denied claimant Irena Ferme’s application for a default judgment, and dismissed part of Irena Ferme’s appeal. In ICC Judge Jones’ subsequent written judgment he expressed deep concern about Ferme’s conduct, deeming it wholly unacceptable. During the remote hearing, Ferme verbally threatened the judge immediately after he delivered the judgment. Her threats were conveyed aggressively and implied through her inquiry about the fate of judges in America who make decisions similar to the one he had made.
Judge Jones highlighted that Ferme did not show any signs of apology or remorse. He expressed his disapproval of her behaviour and noted that he considered it a contempt of court. However, he decided to proceed with the second part of her application whilst emphasising that judges’ immunity is based on their ability to make judgments without fearing repercussions. He underlined that threats are not the solution for dissatisfied litigants.
The judge recognised the challenges faced by litigants in person and acknowledged opposing counsel’s efforts to assist the court. Simon Jones of Enterprise Chambers acting as the opposing counsel provided a comprehensive legal analysis and highlighted evidence that Ferme could have used if she had had legal representation. The judge found Ferme’s behaviour toward opposing counsel during the hearing and her repeated insistence that he had no right to be present as inappropriate.
The case highlighted the importance of maintaining respectful conduct in legal proceedings and avoiding threats towards judges. It also underscored the challenges faced by individuals representing themselves in court and the significance of legal expertise in such situations.