New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Suspension follows misconduct findings

Lawyers Complaints Service: Suspension follows misconduct findings

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Anthony Bernard Joseph Morahan has been suspended for three months from 2 November for breaching the intervention rule and misleading the Court.

In [2015] NZLCDT 29, the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Tribunal found Mr Morahan guilty of three charges of misconduct.

The first charge related to a breach of the intervention rule.

The second charge was an allegation that Mr Morahan had misled the Court, opposing counsel and the Standards Committee that a lawyer, Mr A, was his instructing solicitor when that was not the case.

The third charge was an allegation that Mr Morahan used the name of Mr A on Court documents without his knowledge, consent or authority.

In its penalty decision, [2015] NZLCDT 35, the Tribunal said it found that Mr Morahan had “turned a blind eye to the requirements of the intervention rule and that he had consciously elected to breach the rule.

“His proposition that he could rely on what he asserted was an informal convention of practice of the Family Court Bar whereby Family Court barristers, in some cases, elected not to have instructing solicitors was contradicted by the fact that [Mr Morahan] acknowledged that he was bound by the rule and made the claim that he had an arrangement in place with [Mr A].

“We found against him in that regard.

“We have concluded that [Mr Morahan’s] conduct is at the lower end of seriousness which would not of itself invite a penalty of suspension.

“His offending did not involve dishonesty or personal gain. It did not penalise any client or third party with the exception of [Mr A] who was prejudiced personally and financially.

“In that respect, [Mr A] was himself the subject of an own motion complaint and investigation by the standards committee which put him to professional time and expense, including the prosecution of these charges.”

Although the misconduct did not, of itself, invite suspension, Mr Morahan had previous complaints before a standards committee in 2011, 2014 and 2015. His response to the current charges, the Tribunal said, “continued a theme evident in the earlier complaints”.

Mr Morahan “has displayed a belligerent attitude to the standards committee, an example of which is his description of its behaviour as acting ‘more like a secret inquisition or a secret star chamber than a judicial tribunal’.”

Mr Morahan has also been “decidedly unco-operative” with the investigation of the complaints made against him”.

The Tribunal said it deplored Mr Morahan’s attacks and also that it concluded that there was no evident remorse on his part.

“We thus find that there is no option but to suspend the respondent from practice,” the Tribunal said.

In making costs orders, the Tribunal noted that Mr Morahan was impecunious. It ordered him to pay the Law Society 20% of the standards committee costs of $27,512.79 and 20% of the Tribunal costs of $6,916.

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