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Lawyer's disrespect towards another practitioner

29 March 2018

John Revans Eichelbaum has been censured and fined $10,000 for failing to treat another lawyer with courtesy and respect.

In finding unsatisfactory conduct on Mr Eichelbaum’s part, the lawyers standards committee said that it considered his conduct “was of a serious nature”.

“The committee further considers his conduct to be at the higher end of the unsatisfactory conduct spectrum,” the committee said.

“In the committee’s view, Mr Eichelbaum’s conduct towards the complainant lawyer, Ms B, was not an isolated incident, but persistently occurred over a lengthy period of time.

“The committee considers that Mr Eichelbaum, by his conduct, caused Ms [B] a great deal of distress and that the cumulative effect it had on her was significant.”

The complaint

Ms B complained about the way Mr Eichelbaum behaved in a dispute with her client over undisclosed defects in a property he had purchased. She said that he had failed to treat her, as opposing counsel, with the required respect and courtesy expected from a member of the legal profession.

Ms B told the committee that on one occasion, Mr Eichelbaum – when she told him as a courtesy what she intended to do next in the proceedings – had replied using swear words and alleging “there is no courtesy between us”.

Further incidents had arisen as a result of her request to have an expert visit the site. At the first proposed visit, Mr Eichelbaum refused to allow Ms B and her building consultant to attend the site. Mr Eichelbaum had also made inappropriate remarks.

On a second proposed visit, he would not allow her and her expert to enter the site unless she agreed to bend over through a window down to the skirting board level to sign a piece of wood. She said she reluctantly agreed to do so, so as not to waste time and money. She said that it was clear she was not dressed appropriately to undertake such a manoeuvre. When doing it, she hurt her head. Ms B alleged Mr Eichelbaum laughed after she signed the wood.

She further said that, during a conversation about possible settlement of the case on behalf of her client, Mr Eichelbaum threatened to name her in a conspiracy case if she did not agree to settle the case.

Ms B also referred to instances of bullying arising out of an unrelated matter, where she said Mr Eichelbaum had made and repeated a suggestion that she had assisted in a fraud or crime by making a false police complaint, despite her telling him that she had nothing to do with the complaint. She further said Mr Eichelbaum had sent her a copy of an offensive and expletive-laden letter, which he had received from the complainant. Ms B said the letter had nothing to do with her and was inappropriate.

Public interest

The committee said it was “necessary and desirable in the public interest to direct publication of the summary of the determination, including Mr Eichelbaum’s identity.

“The committee considers that Mr Eichelbaum’s conduct was serious and that the reputation of the profession and the need to protect consumers of legal services outweighed the interests and privacy of Mr Eichelbaum and his relatives and clients.

“The committee also takes into account Mr Eichelbaum’s disciplinary history and the High Court judgment dated 28 July 2015” (Eichelbaum v Canterbury Westland Standards Committee No 2 of the New Zealand Law Society [2015] NZHC 1896).

As well as the censure and fine, the committee ordered Mr Eichelbaum to pay $5,000 costs.

Last updated on the 29th March 2018