New Zealand Law Society - Misconduct charges against lawyer dismissed

Misconduct charges against lawyer dismissed

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The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has dismissed two charges against a lawyer and granted him permanent name suppression.

The alleged misconduct offences arose during a client's case. The client subsequently accused the lawyer of omitting items from a file which was sent to a barrister. The Tribunal accepted the lawyer's evidence that the items had been sent to the barrister.

The client also claimed that the lawyer had misled the court about the state of his instructions. The client instructed the lawyer to file a civil claim as a result of a search of his premises by the police. The client alleged this search resulted in them wrongfully retaining goods, which he was holding, and over which he claimed a civil lien.  

After the lawyer filed a statement of claim, a District Court Judge referred the case to the Disputes Tribunal for determination, given the circumstances of the claim.

The client failed to appear at two Dispute Tribunal Hearings. He claimed he had not been "properly notified" about the first hearing and so sought a rehearing.  Again, he failed to appear, and a finding was made against him. The client tried to keep the proceedings going.

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal considered that the lawyer had tried very hard to achieve his client's instructions, putting considerable effort into the proceedings, seeking peer support and guidance from a second, senior, lawyer. Through that lawyer Mr E had not only given oral advice to his client but had followed it up with a written summary of the position, seeking further instructions. The Tribunal said that the client did not provide the instructions.

Granting the lawyer's application for permanent name suppression, the Tribunal said that as the charges had been dismissed, the lawyer was entitled to protect his reputation and there was no issue of public protection or public interest in the proceedings which outweighed this right.

Costs of $10,398 were awarded against the New Zealand Law Society.