Ex-government lawyer disparages Australian courts during custody dispute

The former lawyer’s case was brought before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal

Ex-government lawyer disparages Australian courts during custody dispute

A former government lawyer has disparaged Australian courts during a custody dispute, landing him before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, reported the NZ Herald.

The ex-lawyer, whose name is shielded under Family Court suppression orders, was slapped with nine charges related to his conduct in Australian and New Zealand courtrooms. He described Australians as “not as civilised as us, they’re not as evolved as us” in a statement published by the Herald.

He also said during a tribunal hearing in Wellington that “Australia has a different attitude to what is fair in court” and that “New Zealanders there do not get a fair deal”, claiming that a judge disliked his accent.

The ex-lawyer had been helping his wife challenge a parenting order from Australian courts in relation to a custody battle against her daughter’s biological father. The ex-lawyer allegedly filed high volumes of evidence to the Federal and Family Court of Australia that he eventually acknowledged were not likely to lead to a successful outcome and lodged appeals that abused the process, as per the first of the charges against him.

Furthermore, the ex-lawyer failed to pay $5,000 in legal costs related to the unsuccessful appeals. The child’s biological father filed an application to lodge the case in New Zealand, after which the ex-lawyer reportedly misled the New Zealand Family Court on the events that had transpired in the Australian courts. The ex-lawyer also accused the biological father of violating court orders and hiding relevant information. Nonetheless, the standards committee standing in as prosecutors for the New Zealand Law Society said that the allegations were unsupported by evidence.

At a hearing regarding the unpaid legal costs, the ex-lawyer claimed that the Australian judge who handled his case had “sought to evade her judicial obligations” rather than fulfil her duties. The standards committee said that making such claims against a judge was tantamount to disgraceful conduct.

“The practitioner’s cumulative conduct forms a pattern of abusive and inappropriate litigation”, the charges indicated in a statement published by the Herald.

The ex-lawyer had allowed his legal practising certificate to lapse and now works as a public servant. He told the tribunal that his experience had discouraged him from continuing in the legal profession.

During the tribunal proceedings, standards committee lawyer Ben Finn said that while judges could be criticised, the criticism should have been brought forward via formal channels.

“Something said to your friends at the pub is not something that should be committed to paper. There is a line and it can be crossed”, he said in a statement published by the Herald.

 Even though the ex-lawyer was not officially representing a client in these proceedings, Finn indicated in his submissions that the ex-lawyer’s conduct was linked to his role as a legal practitioner; thus, his conduct impacted the legal profession.

The tribunal is expected to deliver its written decision on the charges against the ex-lawyer at a future date.

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