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Permanent stay of proceedings granted

06 December 2016

An application to permanently stay disciplinary proceedings against Robert John Moody, of Auckland, has been granted by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in [2016] NZLCDT 23.

Because the practitioner suffered from dementia, the Tribunal said it was clear from the “uncontradicted and extensive evidence now before us that Mr Moody would simply not be able to receive a fair hearing in a manner in which he was a full participant”.

In June 2015, charges were laid concerning “serious failures” in billing practices, including overcharging in the period from 2008 to 2013. This conduct was alleged to amount to misconduct.

Mr Moody initially represented himself, but his family was concerned about his capacity. A lawyer stepped in to assist. Counsel experienced significant difficulties in obtaining clear instructions. An expert assessment was obtained.

In the interim, due to concern about Mr Moody’s functioning and the risk posed to clients, the Tribunal made an order suspending him on 17 November 2015 (see LawTalk 879, 4 December 2015).

At the hearing the Tribunal considered the evidence of relevant experts in the field. The Tribunal noted that in the neurologist’s opinion Mr Moody was “not fit and able to understand the nature and consequences of the current proceedings as a result of his medical condition”.

The Tribunal made it a condition of the stay of proceedings that in the unlikely event that Mr Moody sought to obtain a practising certificate in the future the charges would be revived and heard.

“[His]deterioration has been a gradual one, although obviously more apparent in recent years,” the Tribunal said.

“It would be disappointing if colleagues had not proactively attempted to persuade him to cease practice at an earlier time”..

“We are not aware of what might have occurred ‘behind the scenes’. It may be that this was attempted, unsuccessfully.

“Given the purposes of the [Lawyers and Conveyancers] Act to protect consumers of legal services, and maintain public confidence in the provision of such services, we encourage the profession to be attuned to such matters in a general sense in the future,” the Tribunal said.

The Tribunal ordered Mr Moody to pay two-thirds of the Law Society’s costs, equating to $24,000, and to reimburse the Law Society $13,644 in Tribunal costs.

Last updated on the 15th December 2016