By Kagenyi Lukka
Embarrassing, Unprofessional, Unethical and conflicted among other tags have been of late used to described a dejected city law firm, Sebalu and Lule advocates who were recently permanently barred from representing BoU in any matter involving Meera Investments, Crane bank and City property mogul, Dr Sudhir Ruparelia.
Their troubles are far from over as BoU has finally has instructed veteran advocate Joseph Byamugisha to represent them in the fresh suit filed by city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia, who is seeking orders to dismiss an earlier suit brought against the businessman and his Meera Investments Ltd.
A notice to the High Court dated May 17th 2019, the central bank confirmed having instructed Mr Byamugisha, through his Byamugisha & Co. Advocates, confirming that they have since kicked out Sebalu & Lule Advocates, who were on April 29, declared conflicted, and therefore unfit to represent the parties in a longstanding commercial dispute.
Justice Paul Gadenya Walimbwa, kicked Sebalu & Lule Advocates out of any commercial disputes involving, Mr. Ruparelia and his Crane Management Services, because “the Applicant has made out a case that the first respondent (Sebalu & Lule) has relevant information of the applicant. The information is relevant and I accordingly grant an injunction restraining the first respondent from handling any case involving the applicant”.
This ruling attracted more misery to an already troubled law firm which has since then lost out on big commercial clients. Some of these clients could not withstand associating with a law firm which acts in a way that doesn’t depict well the images of their brands.
For instance, losing the BoU deal has cost conflicted firm monies to the tune of over 1 billion Uganda shillings that they had hoped to reap from the suit against Ruparelia. They had also hoped for permanent retention as BoU’s external lawyers.
Calls for them to be disciplined by Uganda Law society.
Following Justice Paul Gadenya’s landmark ruling against the Lule’s, several people have come up to call upon the Uganda Law Society to reign in on its members before conflict of interest becomes a regular practice in the Nobel profession.
The conduct of this firm violated the ethical code of advocates which forbids an advocate from representing a client against another where they have privileged information. This is envisaged in Regulation 4,9 and 10 of the Advocates code.
Justice Gadenya observed that, “I found that the first respondent (Sebalu and Lule Advocates) Is in possession of privileged and confidential information that came into his possession by virtue of being counsel to the applicant (Sudhir under Crane management Services) The information is relevant and current and relates to the matters in High Court Case Suit No. 109 of 2018 involving the applicant. The first respondent is therefore conflicted and cannot ably represent the second. I accordingly grant an injunction stopping the first Respondent from acting as counsel for the second respondent in this case” reads part of the ruling.
Sebalu and Lule must pay costs
In the 29th April 2019 ruling against the Conflicted law firm of Sebalu and Lule, Justice Paul Gadenya barred the firm with costs to the Dr Ruparelia which up to now they haven’t fulfilled. The firm also didn’t appeal against the ruling which means that they accepted it and must honor it or else, Sudir will be forced to institute another suit against the law firm and BoU in order to recover the monies spent.
In a nutshell, it would be pretentious to imagine that all is well at the firm, Sebalu and Lule advocates as they have lost out on reputation, big clients and monies with a lesser possibility of attracting other formidable businesses. Perhaps, it is a learning lesson for other advocates.