The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has censured Auckland barrister John Revans Eichelbaum after finding him guilty of two charges of misconduct and one charge of unsatisfactory conduct.
The Tribunal dismissed two other charges and amalgamated two charges into one charge. As well as the censure, the Tribunal ordered Mr Eichelbaum to pay the New Zealand Law Society $30,565.25 in costs and to reimburse hearing costs of $19,118. An application for name suppression was dismissed.
Both Mr Eichelbaum and the Law Society's prosecuting standards committee appealed the decisions. On 12 August 2015 the High Court dismissed all appeals and upheld the Tribunal decisions. The Court made an interim name suppression order of 28 days to allow Mr Eichelbaum to seek leave to appeal its decision upholding the refusal of the Tribunal to grant name suppression. This has now expired.
The charges resulted after Mr Eichelbaum was engaged to act in litigation and relations between himself and the client deteriorated. As a result Mr Eichelbaum's relationship with his client ended. The conduct complained of arose from his actions after the termination of this relationship.
The unsatisfactory conduct finding resulted from his improper use of the statutory demand procedure to seek $150,000 for services performed.
One finding of misconduct was for sending the new solicitors for the client a draft affidavit containing offensive and scurrilous remarks about the client. It was found that this amounted to an implicit and improper threat that, if not paid, Mr Eichelbaum would commence proceedings for his fees and attach the affidavit in support.
The other charge of misconduct related to the subsequent litigation between Mr Eichelbaum and his former client. The Tribunal found that the six emails or letters he sent to other lawyers were discourteous and did not treat them with respect and courtesy. Two of the letters were found to contain improper threats in breach of the Lawyers Conduct and Client Care Rules.
"The relationship between lawyers and their clients is extremely important. Where that is severed or breaks down as sometimes happens in light of the stresses and worries associated with litigation, it is vital that the lawyer continues to act with total professionalism," New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore says.