Lawyer files $100 million U.S. lawsuit against Solicitors Regulation Authority
Sean Mireskandari, the London-based solicitor who previously represented the former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Tarique Ghaffur, in his race discrimination claim against the former MPS Commissioner, Sir Iain Blair, has filed a multi-million pound lawsuit in the United States against the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory arm of the Law Society of England and Wales. Mr. Mireskandari is a member of the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) and his lawsuit is being supported by both the SBL and the National Bar Association (NBA), which is the largest organisation of African American lawyers in the U.S.
The claim, which has been filed in the Superior Court of California in the County of Los Angeles, and is said to be worth at least $50 million in punitive damages alone, alleges racketeering, negligence, racial discrimination, defamation and the suborning of witnesses by two SRA investigators who were sent to Los Angeles, California and Hawaii by the UK regulator on three separate occasions to try and obtain evidence against Mr. Mireskandari in 2008. In December 2008, the SRA intervened in Mr. Mireskandari’s successful London-based law firm, Dean & Dean – a practice that he joined in 1999, becoming a partner in 2005 and which had a turnover of several million – closing down his firm and placing more than 40 ethnic minority employees out of work.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Mireskandari, who is a US citizen of Iranian origin, alleges that SRA investigators Barrington Mayne and Malcolm Lees, deliberately lied to people that they interviewed in the United States, including a senior Deputy District Attorney and an employee of the California Bar, elicited false witness statements and effectively fabricated evidence that were later relied upon by the SRA and presented to the High Court as documents of truth to justify the intervention. Mr. Mireskandari believes that the intervention was retribution for the legal representation that his firm provided to Mr. Ghaffur, who was the UK’s highest ranking Asian Muslim police officer at the time. It is also understood that Sir Iain Blair’s solicitor, Ed Solomons, was a member of the SRA’s Board at the time that the intervention took place.
Mr. Mireskandari’s US attorney, Milton Grimes who is a member of the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL), commented:
“Having worked with Mr. Mireskandari and the Society of Black Lawyers on this case, I am astounded by the arrogance and audacity of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. That the SRA came to California and abused the goodwill, not only of our legal community but also our prosecuting authorities in order to racially profile and target minority solicitors in the UK is something that cannot go unchallenged.”
Mr. Mireskandari’s US claim joins that of another civil action, brought by Paul Baxendale-Walker, a former tax solicitor of Asian origin, whose successful law practice was closed down by the SRA in 2005. Mr. Baxendale-Walker alleges that the SRA used similar tactics to intervene and then strike him off the roll of solicitors.
Mireskandari and Baxendale-Walker are members of a growing number of ethnic minority solicitors who are now taking the fight to the SRA, alleging racial discrimination, wrongdoing and disproportionality in the way that ethnic minority solicitors are treated by the regulator.
SBL Co-Chair, Peter Herbert OBE commented:
“These are serious allegations of wrongdoing and Civil Rights abuses. Acting under the direction and control of senior executives at the SRA, Barrington Mayne and Malcolm Lees appear to have violated both the civil and criminal codes of the State of California. This total disregard for the rights of a US citizen will now be brought before the US courts where the judiciary cannot be assumed to be as sympathetic to the SRA as they appear to be in England and Wales. The SBL has become increasingly concerned that some High Court and Circuit judges in England are treating the SRA as an institution that needs to be protected at all costs – even when they are presented with clear evidence of unequal treatment and wrongdoing. These US claims are therefore extremely important in shining a light on the injustices being experienced by ethnic minority solicitors in the UK.”
- Mr. Mireskandari’s civil claim was lodged on Friday 17 February 2012 and can be downloaded at: Mireskandari v. The Law Society of England & Wales
- Lord Herman Ouseley’s ‘Independent Review into Disproportionate Regulatory Outcomes for Black and Minority Ethnic Solicitors’ (July 2008) can be found at: http://www.sra.org.uk/ouseley/
- The Pearn Kandola report into issues of disproportionality at the SRA can be found at: http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/equality-diversity/reports/research-disproportionality.page