The president of the United States, Donald Trump sued the Scottish Government over wind turbines in the North East of Scotland. He initially raised an action in an attempt to prevent the wind farm being built in 2012. There is no love lost between Trump and wind farms considering his farcical claim that they, in fact, cause cancer. When Trump was asked for evidence as to why the wind farm should not be built, he replied “I am the evidence,” and continued with “I am considered a world-class expert in tourism. When you say, ‘Where is the expert and where is the evidence?’ I say: I am the evidence.” It would be funny if it wasn’t true.
Now it is not only the law of evidence that Trump has zero concept of, he has no understanding of the rule of law all together where no person is above the law and everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. It has recently been reported that Trump’s family business are refusing to pay the tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees that accumulated during the course of the civil action against the Scottish Government.
The UK Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Scottish Government in December 2015. This was a great win for the Scottish Government in their energy goals and future climate change aims. However, since Donald Trump has delayed paying the legal fees, it has cost them an arm and a leg. It wouldn’t be surprising if Trump believed he is above the law and refused to pay the fees altogether. There has been no offer of abating the fees or coming to any form of agreement. The matter is now in the hands of the Auditors in the Court of Session.
Whilst there is an appreciation that the American legal system does not operate the same way at the UK, Trump appears to think it does not apply to him altogether. The Scottish Government have a right to recover their legal fees as it is the general rule that the unsuccessful party in a civil action pays the fees of the successful party in the UK. There is of course, always room for negotiation in these matters and reasonable legal fees will take into consideration:
- the amount of work and the time involved (including how complicated, difficult or novel the matter is)
- the level of specialised knowledge, responsibility and supervision needed
- the length, number and importance of any documents which need to be prepared or read
- the place and circumstances in which the work is done
- the urgency of the case
- the amount of money or value of any property involved
In Trump V Scottish Government, all of the above will have a bearing on the fees of the case. Especially considering the case was appealed all the way up to the UK Supreme Court. Therefore, his unwillingness to pay does not reflect the ‘reasonableness’ of the negotiable arrangements. Although, I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that Trump is the embodiment of reasonableness.
The UK civil fees structure attempts to achieve a reasonable balance. The Auditors of the Court of Session carry out an independent determination of fees whereby they consider all of the above mentioned points and issue a report to both parties. This decision is binding on all parties and will be delivered to Trump in this case. Let’s hope that for once, Trump abides by the law and is not above it.
Blog by Jenny Scott, Trainee Solicitor