Wellington lawyer Quentin Duff has been censured for failing to disclose to the Law Society circumstances that might make him not a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate.
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, in  NZLCDT 45, also ordered Mr Duff to pay the Law Society standards committee costs of $5,000 and Tribunal costs of $2,011.
“Mr Duff, the signing of a declaration in which you state that the matters contained in the application are true and correct when they are not, is viewed seriously when the person who made the declaration is an officer of the court as you are,” the Tribunal’s censure states.
“While it is accepted that you did not intend to act dishonestly, you were nevertheless reckless in signing the declaration. You are deserving of censure.”
Mr Duff admitted a charge of unsatisfactory conduct by failing to disclose to the Law Society circumstances that might make him not a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate.
He had completed an application for a practising certificate on or about 7 August 2014. He declared in that application that he had not been a director of a company that had been put into liquidation in New Zealand.
That declaration was incorrect as Mr Duff had been a director of three companies all of which had been put into liquidation.
A lawyers standards committee referred Mr Duff’s conduct in relation to making an incorrect declaration to the Tribunal.
Counsel for the standards committee submitted that:
- it was important that an application for a practising certificate be filled out accurately so that the Law Society can properly consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate;
- the importance of that is highlighted by the fact that applicants are required to sign a declaration at the end of the application that the contents of the application are true and correct;
- Mr Duff candidly acknowledged the importance of such a requirement; and
- Mr Duff had been the subject of a disciplinary sanction in 2005 by the Wellington District Law Society Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal for failing to produce files relating to a cost revision. He was censured, fined $750 and required to pay costs.
Counsel for Mr Duff said that he had filled out the application for a practising certificate in haste and had immediately acknowledged his conduct, saying that he could not defend the indefensible.
“The signing of a declaration that said the contents of the application referred to were true and correct when some of its contents were in fact not correct is a serious matter,” the Tribunal said.
The Tribunal noted that the applicant standards committee had made a finding of unsatisfactory conduct on another matter and had fined Mr Duff $3,000 plus costs and expenses of $1,000.
“We have considered that penalty should be taken into account and have decided that we should not impose a fine,” the Tribunal said.