Serious defaults in client care and persistent failures to engage in resulting investigations have seen the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal order that Michael Rawiri Taia be struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors.
Mr Taia faced three charges brought by two Standards Committees. Following a formal proof hearing the Tribunal found two charges proved at the level of misconduct and one at the level of unsatisfactory conduct.
On the first charge, following mistakes he made in a conveyancing for clients, Mr Taia misled his clients about the work he had performed and failed to respond to client requests for information. He also failed to respond to and cooperate with the Standards Committee investigation. The Tribunal found misconduct proved. The conduct was both disgraceful, and amounted to a wilful or reckless contravention of a number of underlying conduct rules.
The second charge arose from Mr Taia's lack of response after LINZ queried three e-dealing certifications Mr Taia had facilitated in 2015. Mr Taia took no steps to address or respond to LINZ's queries. The Tribunal observed that in the seven years since then, Mr Taia's "rare responses consisted solely of attempts to postpone resolution". The Tribunal found this wilful or reckless breaches of underlying conduct rules including the duty to promote and maintain proper standards of professionalism amounted to misconduct.
The third charge related to Mr Taia omitting to declare certain outstanding fines in his "fit and proper" declaration for a practising certificate in 2019. The Tribunal chose to mark this as unsatisfactory conduct.
The Tribunal ordered that Mr Taia's name be struck off the roll. The Tribunal had regard to previous disciplinary findings including one that had resulted in a period of suspension. Looking to both those and the present charges the Tribunal observed: "Threads that emerged in earlier matters have woven into a fabric that reveals his practice as unreliable, insufficiently concerned about his clients, unresponsive and unhelpful. In this case, he left [clients] in the lurch and failed to resolve the matter for them. Attempts to scaffold his practice through supervision failed because of his own lack of candour. In short, we find he lacks the essential attributes of honesty, trustworthiness and integrity."
The Tribunal ordered Mr Taia to pay $2,327.60 in compensation to his clients, to meet the costs of the Tribunal and the New Zealand Law Society. The names of the clients are permanently suppressed.