New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Counsel must always treat court staff with respect

Lawyers Complaints Service: Counsel must always treat court staff with respect

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A standards committee found a lawyer, R’s, conduct was unsatisfactory, when he was alleged to have spoken rudely to a Registrar in court, to have grabbed her arm, and to have acted like a bully. R was fined $1,500, and ordered to pay costs of $500.

R claimed that he had been frustrated by apparently inconsistent methods being applied by various criminal courts and the manner in which matters were being called.

The allegations were upheld by the standards committee after evidence from the Court Registrar and others in the court on that day. The committee found that Rules 10, 12, 13.2, and 13.2.1 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 had not been complied with. These Rules are concerned with promoting and maintaining proper standards of professionalism, dealing with others with respect and courtesy, and the protection of court processes.

The committee noted that on the evidence, it was not clear just how close R had got to the Registrar, and whether in fact he grabbed her arm. Despite the lack of clarity on this point, the committee said it was clear that R had “overstepped the mark, and was at the least intimidating towards an officer of the court”. The committee found this constituted unsatisfactory conduct.

An apology was considered appropriate but had already been given, and was therefore not part of the orders.

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