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Failure to pay costs results in censure

01 December 2017

[Names used in this article are fictitious]

A lawyer has been censured for failing to pay a lawyers standards committee’s $1,500 costs order.

In December 2012, the standards committee made a determination on a complaint against the lawyer, Berkeley. That determination found unsatisfactory conduct by Berkeley. The committee made a penalty determination in March 2013.

Both parties sought a review of the decisions. The complainant’s review was unsuccessful. On Berkeley’s application, the Legal Complaints Review Officer reversed the penalty determination and directed the committee to reconsider the penalty.

In May 2015, the committee decided to reprimand Berkeley for unsatisfactory conduct, and ordered Berkeley to reduce her fees and pay $1,500 costs.

Between July 2015 and February 2016 there was a series of correspondence between the Law Society and Berkeley relating to the fact that none of the $1,500 had been paid and that Berkeley had not made any indication about beginning to make repayments of the costs.

The matter was then referred to another standards committee, which began an own motion investigation.

Berkeley said that there was no timeframe in the costs decision and that she had clearly told the New Zealand Law Society that she would pay the costs when she had been paid outstanding legal fees by the complainant.

Following that, Berkeley paid the sum outstanding costs in May 2016.

Berkeley’s continued failure for 13 months to pay the costs ordered against her, and her insistence she would only pay when the complainant paid her fees “is conduct which is in defiance of the determination made against her,” the committee said.

“The primary purpose of costs orders under the [Lawyers and Conveyancers] Act [2006] is to defray the costs of administering complaints and disciplinary provisions of the legislation, which otherwise fall on all lawyers.”

Costs ordered by a standards committee should be paid “within a reasonable time or an arrangement acceptable to NZLS made for payment.”

Berkeley’s failure to do either was unsatisfactory conduct, the committee found. As well as imposing the censure, the committee ordered Berkeley to pay $1,000 costs.

Last updated on the 1st December 2017