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Clifton Lyon censured and fined $10,000

03 November 2017

Clifton Killip Lyon has been censured and fined $10,000 by a lawyers standards committee, following two findings of unsatisfactory conduct.

A standards committee conducted an own-motion investigation into the conduct of a suspended lawyer, S. During the course of that investigation potential issues arose concerning Mr Lyon’s conduct that were referred to another standards committee.

By way of background, Mr Lyon had taken over conduct of some court proceedings from S due to his suspension. The committee considered the circumstances around S’ continued involvement with aspects of the proceedings and Mr Lyon’s conduct in relation to this.

The committee subsequently considered Mr Lyon’s conduct in the context of s 7(2) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (which provides that it is misconduct for a lawyer to knowingly allow a suspended lawyer to provide regulated services).

The committee did not go so far as referring the matter to the Disciplinary Tribunal for a possible breach of that section. However, it found that Mr Lyon had permitted S to draft court documents (which falls within the definition of regulated services), knowing S had been suspended and considered that to be unsatisfactory.

The committee also concluded that a response from Mr Lyon to the committee’s enquiries had been “unforthcoming in the extreme” and “at best, misleading” and that that was unsatisfactory. When asked what role S played in drafting court documents, Mr Lyon wrote “I do not know who drafted the court documents”, in circumstances where all indications were that S had drafted them.

The committee noted that Mr Lyon, in his affidavit made in the matter relating to S, provided details of the work he believed S carried out when he was suspended. This included drafting opening submissions, preparing the plaintiff’s bundle of documents, potentially editing briefs of evidence, amending pleading and submissions relating to the application to amend.

Mr Lyon told the committee he did not intentionally breach any professional requirements, and that he had never read s 7 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. The committee noted that Mr Lyon “confirmed that such a situation involving him will never arise again and he regrets ever having agreed to help out with the matter”. However, the committee did not consider that absolved Mr Lyon.

In its decision on publication, the committee said it considered the matter to be “very serious”, and noted it had ordered Mr Lyon to pay a fine at the upper end of the scale available to the committee.

“[The substantive] determination was taken on review; the [Legal Complaints Review Officer] confirmed not only the findings of unsatisfactory conduct, but also the level of the fine.

“The committee considered the very seriousness of the matter to be of public interest,” the committee said.

The committee also said it was important to make clear, by publication of Mr Lyon’s name, “that even lawyers of good standing are bound to co-operate with their regulatory body and to be aware of, and comply with, the provisions of the Act and the Conduct and Client Care Rules.”

“There is an educative value to the profession in this,” the committee said.

As well as the censure and fine, Mr Lyon was ordered to pay $1,000 costs.

Last updated on the 3rd November 2017