Chief justice warns about potentially ignored courtroom requirement

Dame Sian Elias has written to the New Zealand Law Society president to reach out to practitioners

Chief justice warns about potentially ignored courtroom requirement
Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias has warned about a potentially ignored courtroom requirement that has recently come to her attention.

In a letter to the New Zealand Law Society president, the top judge said that the court of appeal recently became aware that a junior counsel in a recent case did not hold a practicing certificate.

The court was not advised, she said. The court was later advised by the lead counsel that a young, recently admitted lawyer was given the opportunity to appear in court in a non-speaking role, the Law Society said.

“It is not known how widespread this practice may be. Unless judges are alerted to the possibility and make enquiry, any such appearance is likely to be undetected. The Chief Judge of the High Court and the Chief Judge of the District Court are not aware of any examples but would also be concerned if this is a developing practice,” she wrote.

The chief justice reminded that it is possible for the court to give dispensation from the requirement that a lawyer appearing in court has a current practicing license.

“Such dispensation should always be sought. Unless dispensation is given, it is not appropriate for senior counsel to appear with someone who does not hold a practising certificate,” she said.

“I should be grateful if practitioners appearing in courts could be reminded of their responsibilities under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act to ensure that junior counsel hold current practising certificates or else to seek dispensation where the circumstances warrant it. In addition where it is necessary and appropriate, leave may be sought for an admitted lawyer who does not hold a current practising certificate to sit at counsel's table while not appearing as counsel.”


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