Auckland lawyer Arlan Arman has been suspended from legal practice for 10 months from 11 June 2019 by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
Mr Arman had pleaded guilty to one charge of misconduct. The Tribunal has also ordered that he not practise on his own account until it authorises him to do so and that he refunds $5,000 in fees to a client who he had agreed to represent.
The Tribunal said the charge related to multiple professional failures by Mr Arman to his client. It said the most serious was subjecting the client to pressure to plead guilty to a very serious charge. The guilty plea was later set aside and the client was acquitted after a jury trial.
Mr Arman had been engaged by Ms O to act for her partner WJ. WJ was charged with three sexual violation charges. A $15,000 fee arrangement for representation if the matter proceeded to jury trial was agreed. Both Ms O and WJ had limited incomes but Mr Arman provided no advice on legal aid.
Ms O and WJ borrowed $5,000 and paid it to Mr Arman. There was a series of court appearances but Mr Arman was often represented by an agent, or not at all on three occasions. He failed to maintain proper written records of his instructions to agents and also lost WJ's file.
The Tribunal said Mr Arman did not meet or discuss trial strategy with WJ or Ms O. It says Mr Arman pressured WJ to plead guilty rather than proceed to trial, and told WJ that he had no change of successfully defending the charges and advised him wrongly in respect of likely sentencing outcomes.
The District Court granted a later application to vacate WJ's guilty pleas, and found there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice. The Judge concluded that there had always been an available defence and WJ had not received competent or correct legal advice, and that he had not pleaded guilty freely or on an informed basis.
The Tribunal said Mr Arman had been absent at his penalty hearing and this was a matter of considerable concern, providing an insight into his priorities. He had failed to demonstrate insight or remorse for his conduct.
It said that having regard to consistency with other decisions, it would not be proper to suspend Mr Arman for more than 10 months. A late guilty plea was a mitigating factor as was the fact that it was Mr Arman's first disciplinary offence in his relatively short career.
In addition the suspension, requirement not to practise on his own, and refund of the $5,000, Mr Arman has been ordered to pay total costs of $16,024.