Censure and fine for serious contraventions
John Revans Eichelbaum has been censured and fined $10,000 for unsatisfactory conduct that a lawyers standards committee has described as “serious”.
One of the breaches – threatening, bullying, insulting and intimidating a person he pursued court action against – was sufficiently serious that the committee considered whether the matter should be referred to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
The committee found, however, that Mr Eichelbaum’s conduct was “at the higher end of the scale of unsatisfactory conduct ”.
Mr Eichelbaum is a barrister and also a director of a company (company B) that purchased a property from two people as trustees of a family trust. The complainant, Ms C, was one of the two people.
A dispute arose relating to alleged undisclosed defects to the property, and company B filed court proceedings against Ms C and the trustees of the family trust.
As a result of Ms C’s dealing with Mr Eichelbaum throughout the proceedings, Ms C filed a complaint with the Lawyers Complaints Service.
The standards committee considered that complaint and decided to take no further action, mainly due to lack of evidence to substantiate or corroborate the allegations.
Ms C’s lawyer filed a second complaint, which repeated the allegations Ms C made and also provided further evidence. (see Lawyer’s disrespect toward another practitioner)
The Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) reversed the committee’s decision on Ms C’s complaint and returned the matter to the committee to reconsider.
The LCRO specifically directed the committee to take into account all the material provided by Mr Eichelbaum and Ms C’s lawyer.
In reconsidering the issue, the committee’s view was that the new evidence produced indicated “that Mr Eichelbaum displayed a pattern of conduct that was threatening, bullying, insulting and intimidating”.
“Mr Eichelbaum by his conduct caused Ms [C] a great deal of stress. Mr Eichelbaum’s conduct towards Ms [C] was not only an isolated incident but persistently occurred over a long period of time (approximately five years).”
The committee listed three specific instances of the behaviour:
- Mr Eichelbaum’s correspondence to Ms C stating: “you should be ashamed of yourself for attempting to sneak out of your obligations in this way – what would your students think?”
- Threatening Ms C with false court proceedings, and
- Intruding on Ms C’s private property to serve documents on her.
“Mr Eichelbaum’s conduct towards Ms [C] was unnecessary, unacceptable and below the standard both required and expected of a lawyer.”
Having considered all the incidents over the course of the proceedings, the enduring nature of Mr Eichelbaum’s behaviour and the cumulative effect it had on Ms [C] the committee considered that Mr Eichelbaum had breached rules 10 and 12 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008, “as he failed to treat Ms [C] with integrity, respect and courtesy,” the committee said.
The committee also found unsatisfactory conduct by Mr Eichelbaum because there was a period of time during the proceedings in which he breached the independence requirements of the Rules . During this time Mr Eichelbaum acted as a barrister for the company of which he was a director in proceedings.
The committee’s third unsatisfactory conduct finding was imposed because Mr Eichelbaum used information obtained in the District Court through discovery in another forum without obtaining prior consent from either Ms C or the District Court. That breached rule 8.30(4) of the High Court Rules.
As well as the censure and fine, the committee ordered Mr Eichelbaum to pay $3,000 costs.
“In the committee’s view, it is necessary and desirable in the public interest to direct publication of the summary of the determination, including Mr Eichelbaum’s identity,” the committee said, noting its finding of unsatisfactory conduct was based on “serious contraventions”.
Last updated on the 29th March 2018