The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended Brett Cooper from legal practice for 18 months effective from 2 March 2015.
Mr Cooper – a barrister who was practising in Rotorua – had charges of misconduct and unsatisfactory conduct proven against him at a hearing of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
He is appealing the length of the suspension.
The misconduct charge brought by the New Zealand Law Society was for misleading the Rotorua District Court that he was too unwell to appear at a hearing in order to act for a client in the Christchurch District Court on another matter.
The unsatisfactory conduct charge related to the same Rotorua case where it was found that he had failed to organise himself to avoid conflicting appearances in different courts by not instructing an agent to appear on his behalf.
The Tribunal considered he made a plain choice to appear in the Christchurch court instead of in Rotorua. The Rotorua court case had been adjourned twelve times.
The New Zealand Law Society says the overriding duty of a lawyer is as an officer of the court and that a lawyer must not engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive.
A lawyer’s practice must be conducted in a manner that ensures that the lawyer's duties to the court and their clients are adhered to, and that the reputation of the legal profession is preserved.
Mr Cooper was ordered to pay the Law Society costs of $27,925 and reimburse hearing costs of $5,540.