The annual report of the Legal Complaints Review Officer (LCRO) for the year to 30 June 2016 has been tabled in Parliament.
In an overview of the 2015/16 year, LCRO Rex Maidment says the issue which continues to be problematic for th Office is the volume of cases on hand.
"The ability of the Office to meet its statutory obligation to deal with the cases that come before it in an expeditious fashion continues to be of concern," he says.
The report states that the LCRO received 290 applications for review in the year to 30 June 2016, which was an increase from the 278 applications received in the previous year.
Of the applications, 274 (94.5%) related to a standards committee decision on a complaint made. A further 8 related to review of determinations from standards committees following own motion inquiries, 3 related to the power of the standards committee to intervene in a practice, and the remaining 5 related to decisions of standards committees to refer a matter to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
While the LCRO is required to provide an independent oversight and review of decisions made by standards committees of the New Zealand Law Society and the New Zealand Society of Conveyancers (NZSC), all applications received in 2015/16 related to decisions made by standards committees of the Law Society.
"The NZSC is of modest size and to date no applications for review from its Standards Committees have been received," the report says.
18% of NZ Law Society standards committee decisions reviewed
Information provided by the New Zealand Law Society indicates that its standards committees disposed of 1595 complaints in the 2015/16 year. During the same period the LCRO received 290 review applications, meaning 18% of standards committee decisions proceeded to a review.
During the year the LCRO completed 271 reviews. This compares with 325 reviews completed in 2014/15 and 225 reviews completed in 2013/14.
Of the 271 reviews completed in the year to 30 June 2016, 238 (88%) related to reviews filed in previous years. Of the 271 completed reviews, 46 (17%) were completed within 6 months, 31 (11.4%) were completed within 6-12 months and 194 (71.6%) were completed in over 12 months.
9.6% of standards committee decisions reversed
The 271 reviews in the 2015/16 year resulted in 176 decisions of standards committees (64.9%) being confirmed by the LCRO, 8 decisions confirmed but had minor modifications, another 8 were confirmed and modified, 26 decisions (9.6%) were reversed or partially reversed, 12 decisions (4.4%) were referred back to the standards committee for reconsideration, 4 reviews were declined for lack of jurisdiction, and 37 reviews were withdrawn or settled by agreement between the parties.