New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Censured for breaching judicial order

Lawyers Complaints Service: Censured for breaching judicial order

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Auckland lawyer Yoon Boo Lee has been censured and fined $2,000 for breaching an order made by a District Court Judge.

The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, in [2015] NZLCDT 33, found Mr Lee guilty of unsatisfactory conduct.

While he was acting on behalf of a client during lengthy litigation proceedings, a District Court Judge made a costs order against him personally. The Judge also directed that, until these costs were paid, Mr Lee was not to act further for his client in the litigation.

One week later, Mr Lee twice contacted the lawyer for the real estate agent who held the deposit for the land transaction in dispute.

The costs order made by the District Court Judge was later set aside on appeal in the High Court.

“To add some context to Mr Lee’s conduct, it needs to be pointed out that he was ultimately vindicated in his approach to both the litigation and the costs order against him,” the Tribunal said.

“We accept that during the three to four years this litigation endured Mr Lee was frustrated that the matter was not able to be resolved in a much more straightforward manner.”

However, Mr Lee’s breach of the costs order was “a misguided attempt to skirt around the terms of that order”.

In its penalty decision, [2015] NZLCDT 42, the Tribunal said: “Mr Lee, it is not for you as a legal practitioner and officer of the Court to second-guess an order of the Court. If you disagree with the order, the proper process is to appeal it or seek judicial review. Failing either of those courses, you are obliged to comply with any order made against you and your first duty is to the Court. You breached that obligation in this instance.”

In addition to the censure and fine, the Tribunal ordered Mr Lee to pay the New Zealand Law Society costs of $5,535 and to reimburse hearing costs of $3,914.

Mr Lee is appealing the Tribunal’s decision.

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