Photo by Ben Stansall

Open lawfare

With crowd funding, private individuals can remake the Government itself in court

Artillery Row

Today, the common Individual is able to wield a power she historically lacked: the ability to directly fashion the laws and Constitutions of our country by raising lawsuits through funding provided by Online Legal Crowd Funding. The Individual who is willing to take up her sword in this manner is able to contest and defeat the Corporation, Local Government and even the Government itself. Whilst we are all familiar with Chapter 40 of the Magna Carta of 1215, granting access to courts to administer justice promptly and fairly, in terms “we will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right” without a sufficiently large enough purse, this was always out of reach of the common Individual.

This shift in power has been made possible through the new concept of Online Legal Crowd Funding. An internet 2.0 phenomenon, it simply means the raising of legal fees through, primarily, your social media channels. The current market leader in the UK is Crowd Justice, but the market is waking up to its potential.

Legal crowd funding can be an inherent part of your socials life

This power arises at the same time as the limits of our existing democratic arrangement are being felt. For one thing, society’s mores are changing far too quickly for a five-year electoral cycle to deal with. The Individual is forced to ask the judiciary to answer those questions which have not, or cannot, be settled through the ballot box. Fortunately for us in the United Kingdom, this can be achieved because, peculiarly, (i) our Constitution remains uncodified, (ii) comes from a number of sources, (iii) does not require a legislative Super Majority to change any part of it and (iv) can be immediately altered by a Court decision. This enables the Individual who has the loudest and most persuasive voice, i.e., the one who can convince a group to fund her, to bring the biggest and best guns (aka lawyers) to the lawfare battle.

Personally, I think it is entirely fortunate that this power has arisen when it is so desperately required. It allows the Individual to fight back against the State’s most recent attempt (of course, on behalf of the concerned majority) to curtail the freedoms of the Individual. What the Individual can think, say or do and even who they can say it to, what goes into their body, whether they can vote and in what manner, whether they can leave their own house, who watches them if they do, and whether they can go to work, is all now subject to overbearing law and is being challenged in the Courts.

The Individual can also engage passively with this phenomenon: legal crowd funding can be an inherent part of your “socials life”. Catch up with your friends on Facebook, gleefully jump on a twitter pile-on and then check the webpage update on your favourite lawsuit(s). Donate your £10 and share it through your socials. Your £10 encourages a further £100 donation by those who share your views on how the country should develop.

A major flex of this power was seen in the Crowd Funded Brexit litigation, when various individuals assisted by numerous online legal Crowd Funding (raising an estimated £500k) repeatedly defeated the Government’s legal teams, confirming our constitutional arrangement handed down from Magna Carta: that the legal system, rather than democratic intent, is Primus Inter Pares as the elected Government always remains subject to how the legal system may interpret the law

Now anybody can make a similar impact on other weighty matters. Take our employment laws as an example. Previously a role for elected Government, our employment laws have been significantly altered, almost always in favour of the employee, since the election of the Conservative Governments in 2010. This has been due to various Crowd Funded lawsuits and generally in direct opposition to the Government’s electoral mandate.

This doesn’t mean the law isn’t a dangerous battleground for the Individual

On 25 April 2013, a draft of the Lord Chancellor’s fees Order was laid before Parliament, and then debated and approved by both Houses. This law required Claimants to pay fees if they wished to litigate in the Employment Tribunal. The Supreme Court quashed the fees set under this law in 2017, forcing the Government to repay any Claimants who had incurred fees. Further, in various lawsuits relating to the question “who is a worker” (or put another way “who is self-employed”), the Courts have pushed tens of thousands of people who previously thought themselves as self-employed people into the domain of employment law. Whether that will affect the motivation of free agents to contract with who they would like to and in what manner, potentially degrading our free-market system and reducing the amount of jobs in the economy, remains to be seen.

Remember, we are not talking here of one party simply winning their lawsuit against the opposing party, but rather changing the law of the land as a result of a judgment, immediately affecting every other member of society. Worryingly, this can become a perverse power, because whilst the Plaintiff’s objective in her lawsuit may be to change a certain law, the Defendant may have little or no skin in the game of that particular element of the lawsuit and so bring little or no argument to the judiciary: but the law will change nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean the law isn’t a dangerous battleground for the Individual. A court can cast you down as holding “Totalitarian” views in the first skirmish, and then find those same views are an important philosophical belief in your Appeal. Maya Forstater’s lawsuit began the war of sex-based rights vs transgender rights, with universities, challenges against charities and even political parties, all getting caught up in the barbed wire of this legal warscape.

Should you feel that her Majesty’s Opposition is not, or cannot, effectively carry out its job against the Govt, or that you can do a better one, bring a barrage of Crowd Funded lawsuits. Hardly a week goes by without another blast from the lawsuits parked on the Government’s lawn. Whether it be allegations of exploding messages, chumocracy, Covid deaths, Priti’s pushbacks, lobbying scandals, pork barrel politics, what goes into Cumming’s friend’s pocket or attempting to force the police to investigate the now famous Downing Street parties, there is always fresh Crowd Funded money available for the arsenal.

My own legal practice has changed significantly due to the advent of online legal crowd funding. I realised its potential power when my client Sonia Appleby, child safeguarding officer, won her whistleblowing case against England’s Gender Identity Clinic, with significant Crowd Funded support. Sometimes Crowd Funding simply turbo charges my client’s legal wallet, but in others I am able to bring worthy cases to Court for Individuals who simply wouldn’t have the money to engage in such David v Goliath battles. 

So, Individual, it is up to you. Do you have the stomach for the fight? Do you wish to pick up your sword, get some scars and tell your children how you changed the country? Do you have a legitimate, seismic case to bring with enough followers and subscribers? Then choose the right lawyer and you too can make history.

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