New Zealand Law Society - Michael Robinson was not struck off

Michael Robinson was not struck off

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We offer our sincere apologies for an incorrect assertion in the article “Characters in the Law” by David Sparks, which was published in LawTalk 925, February 2019. This stated that Auckland lawyer Michael Robinson was struck off. This is wrong. Mr Robinson was never struck off and we would like to set the record straight. We should have checked the assertion about a hard-working criminal lawyer who had a very successful career. David Sparks also apologises for his wrong memory on this matter.

The mistake was discovered on receipt of an email from Mr Robinson’s son David, who was a lawyer and then District Court Judge himself. Mr Robinson’s email, which provides some very interesting information about his father, reads as follows:

I was surprised to read in David Sparks’ article “Characters in the Law” published in the February 2019 edition of LawTalk that my father had been “struck off”. I commenced working for him as a part-time law clerk in the late 1950s and joined him in partnership with Alf Morgan-Coakle when I qualified in 1961. I can assure you that throughout the time I worked for my father and was in partnership with him he had not been struck off. He appeared as counsel virtually every working day in the Magistrates’ Court and Supreme Court. On occasions he also appeared in the Court of Appeal.

He died in August 1963 at the age of 51 after returning to court late at night for the verdict in the trial of Colleen Patterson charged with drug dealing. He was counsel in that trial and the late Sir Owen Woodhouse, who was the trial Judge, told me he invited my father into his chambers whilst they were awaiting the verdict. He recounted a very pleasant discussion with my father about our family history and noticed that my father did not appear to be very well.

At the time of his death my father had a large number of criminal jury trials set down for hearing in the Supreme Court. Following his death I appeared as counsel in those trials. I recall the trial of Colleen Patterson because she was acquitted at the trial when I appeared as her counsel.

Following his death I continued in partnership with Alf Morgan-Coakle. The partnership was known as Robinson and Morgan-Coakle and following my appointment to the District Court, Alf Morgan-Coakle continued the partnership which is now known as Morgan Coakle Lawyers.

I attach for your information an extract from page 224 of Portrait of a Profession edited by Sir Robin Cooke QC (1969). Although the article incorrectly names my father Michael Joseph Robinson (his correct name was Michael Robinson) this article give a much more accurate description of the Michael Robinson I knew.

Kind Regards,
David Robinson

The extract from Portrait of a Profession (written by CP Hutchinson QC) reads as follows:

“Michael Joseph Robinson was a partner of Richard Singer, with whom Sir David Smith deals, and practised chiefly in the criminal and divorce divisions of the Court. He was an ebullient and irrepressible advocate; his clients got full value, as in every case he used every talent which he possessed for the benefit of his cause. Throughout his life he was a centre of controversy, but he was a man with a great heart and when the forensic battle was over always radiated warmth and friendliness towards his adversary. Furthermore, whenever he gave his word to any barrister it was as good as a bond, although it was always difficult to get him to give an undertaking.”

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