New Zealand Law Society - Disciplinary charges stayed against lawyer affected by dementia

Disciplinary charges stayed against lawyer affected by dementia

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An Auckland lawyer who was suspended because he was facing serious allegations of gross overcharging has been found to have been suffering from dementia.

The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal made an interim suspension order on 16 November last year against Robert John Moody.

Mr Moody was charged with 'serious failures' in his charging practices including overcharging, to the extent that his conduct was alleged to amount to misconduct during a period from 2008 to 2013.

However following medical evidence presented by consultant psychiatrist Jane Casey, an application was filed in February this year seeking a permanent stay of the proceedings because Mr Moody suffered from dementia.

Dr Casey referred to the Addenbrookes 3 Cognitive Examination, in which a cut-off of 82 out of a score of 100 normally leads to a diagnosis of dementia. Mr Moody's score was 63.

That evidence was supported by a specialist neurologist, Dr Ernest Willoughby.

New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says it is a sad end to a legal career as clearly Mr Moody's condition was affecting his performance as a practising lawyer.

"It also highlights the need for lawyers to continue to look out for each other, to recognise signs of lawyers not coping in their work and to seek help for them before it can get to the point of going before a Disciplinary Tribunal," she says.

In 2009 the Law Society introduced 'Practising Well', an initiative that provides access to support and resources for lawyers.

"Practising Well also promotes a caring and mutually supportive approach to work and life for lawyers by encouraging them to be mindful of each other's wellbeing," Ms Beck says. 

The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal granted a stay of proceedings.

It says public protection has been achieved by the suspension of Mr Moody from practice between 16 November 2015 and the date of the stay decision and his acknowledgement that he will not seek a further practising certificate.

The Tribunal ordered the payment of two-thirds of the legal costs incurred by the Law Society, equating to $24,000. Mr Moody has also been ordered to pay the Law Society hearing costs of $13,644.