David Carden, who recently retired as Chair of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, started out in law 60 years ago.
He was inspired to be a lawyer after hearing his father talk about the profession “and that put the idea into my head”.
However, he soon developed a hankering for medicine, and after his first year at Law School at Auckland University, he applied to be enrolled in medicine at the university’s Medical School. But he changed his mind. “I’ve always had an interest in medicine, but I thought that, given I had done a year of law, I should pursue that as a career,” he says.
But David has pursued that medical interest over the last ten years on the Health Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal, spending four years as its Deputy Chair and the past six as Chair.
“I have enjoyed the role because the process is well-managed. I have really appreciated the work of the professionals involved in the tribunal, the dentists, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and so on.”
The Tribunal comprises five professionals, including one lawyer and one layperson.
“Many of the cases it hears involve boundary issues such as having an improper relationship.
“Another major breach is conviction for offences, for example, for defrauding the Accident Compensation Commission or their employer, or dishonesty that involves the profession. It can also be for other offences such as drink driving.”
But he also says there is a proportion of cases that are professional standards issues, such as prescribing too much medication, not attending to the patients’ rehabilitation needs after an operation, and “many more” instances.
David says it’s vital to have a lawyer as Chair of the Tribunal “to ensure that proper process is followed, and standards are maintained”.
Some litigation proved unsatisfying
Mr Carden initially began work as a lawyer in 1960 as a general solicitor, before focusing on Family Court matters, and then serving as a barrister focusing on commercial litigation. He currently works in alternative dispute resolution.
“I learned my skills at the coalface, I was working the whole time I was qualifying as most lawyers did at the time, and I gained a lot of practical experience in a range of areas, including conveyancing, forming companies, winding up estates and so forth. Then I started to focus more on litigation and I worked for two or three firms getting a good grounding in litigation.
“At Glaister Ennor, we had a diary which we worked through, and I recall on one day counting 17 different litigation hearings in the diary which we had to deal with on that same day. It was a very good learning experience. That led me into partnership with Gaze Bond and Carden, which later became Gaze Bond Carden and Munn. I spent several years as a conveyancer and also did litigation, particularly in Family Court matters.”
David eventually went out on his own as a barrister continuing to deal in litigation.
“I realised after a number a number of years that the litigation process for me was not quite as satisfying as I would have liked as I am the sort of person who is prepared to compromise in my own life, and there were times when I thought that those involved in the litigation should be making compromises in their position to achieve an outcome, and move on. I found that to a degree litigation was not achieving that, so I pursued training and study in mediation and arbitration.”
David became President of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Instítute Inc (AMINZ) in 2009 and was also appointed a Weathertight Homes adjudicator “when there were so many such claims in the early 2000s”.
Solving intricate legal puzzles
In the late 1960s and early 70s, David had his greatest satisfaction helping people who were “distressed” by the circumstances that they were in and finding a way to get them out of their sticky situation.
“There were a lot of cases that involved estates left by relatives, where someone felt they had been badly done by, or issues resulting in sales of businesses where the disgruntled buyer felt they had been sold a pup.”
In later years he had satisfaction from adjudicating the issues that arose in the time that he was Chair of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal and before that, a Weathertight Homes adjudicator. They were highlights that enabled him to participate in resolving the issues that arose and, in the case of health practitioners, maintaining standards in the health professions. There were also mediations where he was able to assist disputing parties to conciliated settlements.
Outside of work David is a dedicated family man, with three children and seven grandchildren. He plays golf, tramps and is involved in his local church and Rotary Club. He has served on the board of the Auckland Marriage Guidance Council, at the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Council of the Auckland District Law Society, on a Medical Misadventure Advisory Committee for ACC, and as the convenor of the NZLS ACC Committee.
He is on the AMINZ Panels for Arbitrators and Mediators and the Construction Contracts Adjudicators list, and a Disputes Panellist for Retirement Villages.
David says the legal profession is very satisfying to work in if you find the right fit.
“You need to know what your skills are, which area your personality fits in with, and what you’re hoping for from the professional involvement. Making a lot of money was not the motivator for me.
“If you find the right niche, and you apply the skills and sharpen those skills you can provide some significant social assistance to people who need it.”