Auckland lawyer Donald Bruce Thomas has been censured by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
Mr Thomas admitted a charge of misconduct for recklessly breaching section 110 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and regulation 12(6) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account) Regulations 2008.
His misconduct arose from his release of trust money held on behalf of a trust for the purchase of a property for the trust without the consent and authority of one of the two trustees.
The trustees were a husband and wife who had separated and at the time of the release of the trust money they were negotiating the division and settlement of relationship property.
The Tribunal said the proper course which Mr Thomas should have followed was to apply to the High Court for removal of the husband as a trustee. He had allowed his judgement to be clouded by his frustration at the stance being taken by the co-trustee.
Mr Thomas had previously made an application to the Family Court to have the funds released.
The Tribunal noted that the misconduct was a single event which was carried out with no dishonesty or personal gain by Mr Thomas, who had had a long career without any other blemish.
As well as censuring Mr Thomas, the Tribunal ordered him to pay compensation of $2,898, costs to the New Zealand Law Society in the sum of $10,907, and to reimburse hearing costs of $2,101.