He calls himself an advocate, charges for advice on fines and council rates and makes incredible claims about his success in courtrooms around Australia.
But Derek Balogh — who was briefly jailed in 2008 after refusing to vacate his home despite a court order — has left a trail of failed cases in his wake.
Mr Balogh offers support in court and Fair Work Commission hearings and charges up to $1,497 for access to his teachings.
The Melbourne man claims agencies like the police and courts have been secretly turned into businesses and such entities now exist only to make money. He runs regular online classes, sometimes attended by dozens of people, where he teaches that elections and mortgages are invalid.
University of Technology Sydney legal expert Harry Hobbs described the advice given by Mr Balogh in his paid meetings as “false hope”.
“People who are struggling get enticed into his orbit and end up worse off,” Dr Hobbs said.
“There is no magic wand or magic get-out-of-jail-free card that allows you to avoid the ordinary laws of the land.”
Sydney-based solicitor Samir Banga has been contacted for legal support by people who have followed Mr Balogh’s unqualified guidance.
“Some might not pay a few council rates and go, ‘Oh shit, I better pay,’ and some pull away after they learn, but the negative consequences could be as small as mispayments of interest, as negative as losing their houses,” Mr Banga said.
Mr Balogh tells his members that he has had many successes, but he did not provide examples when asked by 7.30.
7.30 spoke with eight people who have engaged Mr Balogh for various purposes, and examined published court, tribunal and Fair Work Commission findings that are highly critical of his work.
None of these cases were successful.
Client lost her home
Self-described energy medicine practitioner Susan Glynn appeared in the NSW Supreme Court after defaulting on her mortgage to the tune of more than $17,000. She appeared without legal representation, but sought to have Mr Balogh recognised as her “McKenzie friend” – an informal adviser.
The court refused this request on the basis Mr Balogh’s proposed assistance was “directed towards propagation of baseless and specious legal propositions that will only serve to waste time and cause further expense”.
“No proper legal practitioner would be permitted to put [these arguments],” Chief Judge Robert Beech-Jones wrote in his 2022 decision.
“The right to be represented is an important right, but it is a right to be represented by a legal practitioner, not anyone of a person’s choosing.”
The court awarded Westpac Ms Glynn’s home.
Ms Glynn told 7.30 she had paid $200 to join Mr Balogh’s group, which she felt was a fair price. She acknowledged her situation was “not tidy”, but said she still believed in the arguments that Mr Balogh wanted to put before the court because what he said was evidenced through documentation.
In Ms Glynn’s view, it was inevitable the bank would win her home, because she claimed the courts were owned by banks. She is yet to vacate her property and suggested she would lodge an appeal.
“All of the people who work in the court are workers for the bank,” she said.
“So they are going to be in a situation where they are seriously cutting their nose off their own face if they don’t hand over the property and collect thousands of dollars for the corporation that is the court.”
‘Get proper legal advice’
May-Ring Chen lost her job with Woodside in Perth after refusing the COVID-19 vaccination. She sought an unfair dismissal hearing in the Fair Work Commission 206 days after the cut-off for an application.
She was represented at that hearing by Mr Balogh, who had advised her to file the proceedings.
In her decision, handed down in December, Fair Work Commission deputy president Melanie Binet wrote that “it became apparent” Mr Balogh was unfamiliar with the relevant provisions of the Fair Work Act.
Ms Chen’s application for an extension of time was dismissed, partly on the basis “the application has low likelihood of success”.
Months on, Ms Chen routinely appears in Mr Balogh’s regular Zoom meet-ups requesting an update on her lost claim.
She declined to comment on Mr Balogh’s representation when contacted by 7.30.
Lawyer Samir Banga, who is personally opposed to COVID-19 mandates, acknowledged frustration with traditional institutions but encouraged people to seek proper legal representation.
“I would say get proper legal advice and it doesn’t matter which side of the spectrum you sit on,” he said.
“I understand why people feel lawyers may be a rip-off, but when push comes to shove you want a lawyer on your side.”
‘No different to online romance scams’
Mr Balogh asked 7.30 to book a consultation when contacted for an interview, with rates starting at $50 per half hour. He later replied to a series of questions with a written statement responding to what he called “probing hearsay propositions”.
“It appears that you have no evidence or have done no investigation, regarding the hearsay or allegations that you proffer in your above allegations and/or statements,” Mr Balogh wrote.
“I have been the target of slurs, defamation, slander and even violent death threats to me and others, from those that I have exposed and these are the concealers to continue [sic] to conceal serious criminal offences.”
In a 2021 interview with an alternative independent media outlet, Mr Balogh was asked about allegations he had “ran off” with people’s money, leaving them homeless and suicidal.
He told the interviewer his phone had been hacked, meaning he was unable to contact clients, but that he was working to have it fixed.
“I have been attacked on my PC and my mobile and I did have many, many problems on my old Apple phone,” Mr Balogh said.
“I lost a lot of names and a lot of numbers … I have been targeted on my video conferencing calls, I have been shut down, I’ve had phone calls disconnected midstream.”
Griffith University senior lecturer Keiran Hardy said it was impossible to say whether Mr Balogh believed the falsehoods he was spreading, but he was profiting from them regardless.
“This kind of website and action and membership doesn’t seem to me any different to online romance scams or anything else,” Dr Hardy said.
“There are probably some difficult questions to ask and answer about what offences might these people be committing for disseminating this info where people rely on it to their detriment.”
A spokesperson for the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner said: “We urge anyone looking for legal help, or who is approached by someone offering legal services, to check our Register of Lawyers to make sure you are dealing with a qualified lawyer with a current practising certificate.
“No-one else has the proper knowledge, skills and training to assist you.”
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