The Malaysian lawyer at the center of a 2007 judicial scandal has emerged as an unlikely potential martyr for free speech. V.K. Lingam’s offense? Scandalizing the judiciary, a somewhat antiquated form of contempt of court that is part of Malaysia’s legacy of English common law. Historically, such charges were based upon scurrilous abuse of the judiciary or accusing judges of corruption or improper motives. Most well-known cases of scandalizing the judiciary—Malaysian or otherwise—have been against journalists and authors, but the case against Lingam is unusual in that it stems from allegations made in court filings. Seeking to overturn a decision against his clients, Lingam accused Malaysia’s highest court of plagiarism, alleging that a judge’s decision reproduced large portions of Lingam’s opponents’ filings. Now Lingam and his clients face possible jail time.
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