The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) has suspended Christchurch lawyer Richard Dean Palmer for 18 months after finding him guilty of three charges of misconduct in November 2022. Mr Palmer engaged in behaviour which broadly fell under the heading of sexual harassment.
The Tribunal also censured Mr Palmer as it considered a more permanent consequence ought to exist. The censure noted that Mr Palmer’s conduct was reprehensible and disturbing to the complainants and that Mr Palmer had shown a lack of insight into the harm caused by his actions. The censure stated that Mr Palmer’s conduct brought the reputation of the legal profession into disrepute. A copy of the censure is set out in full below.
Furthermore, the Tribunal ordered Mr Palmer to pay $10,000 to one of the complainants for emotional harm. There were also costs orders made against Mr Palmer.
Mr Palmer, although we accept that the disciplinary process has provided a salutary lesson to you, we determined that a more permanent consequence ought to exist, in the form of a formal Censure.
Your conduct towards the complainants was reprehensible and disturbing to them. In our Penalty Decision we stated we were concerned about your lack of insight into the harm caused by your actions. We trust that you will use the period of suspension imposed on you to reflect on these matters.
Your conduct brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute. It was disgraceful and dishonourable conduct.
You also failed to disclose to the Tribunal at the time of the hearing that you were already suspended from your employment.
You are formally censured. The Censure will remain part of your professional record.