Lawyer suspended due to sexist comments against Family Court, judge

The unnamed lawyer also lashed out at his wife's lawyers in custody proceedings

Lawyer suspended due to sexist comments against Family Court, judge

An employment lawyer has been suspended from practice for six months after he called a judge and opposing counsel "ignorant women" and referred to the Family Court as a "vagina court", reported the NZ Herald.

The lawyer, whose name is under suppression, was embroiled in a custody battle where he also claimed that his wife’s legal counsel were “feminist staff who had a bone to pick with men”, according to a 10-page memorandum he filed. He had been representing himself in the proceedings.

The lawyer’s conduct prompted an enquiry by the Law Society, which then escalated the matter to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. This year, the tribunal convicted him of personal misconduct, characterising his remarks as "ugly and discriminatory", as per a statement published by the Herald.

"The sheer quantity and breadth of the outrageous and insulting communications, even though confined to the context of private Family Court proceedings, lead us to the view that this is very serious misconduct", the tribunal said.

The tribunal also ordered the suspension of the lawyer’s practising certificate for a six-month period and imposed a $27,000 payout in legal fees on the grounds that allowing the lawyer to continue practising would harm the legal profession’s rputation.

Moreover, the tribunal found that the lawyer “has not demonstrated that he really grasps how damaging of the institution and of his profession such comments were”.

During a hearing last November, the lawyer attempted to contextualise his actions by detailing his frustrations with what he perceived as a biased judicial process against him. He described himself as "a father at his wits’ end", according to a statement published by the Herald.

The lawyer argued that his actions were done in a personal and not a professional capacity; however, the Standards Committee argued that his status as a practising lawyer at the time rendered his behaviour as personal misconduct, at minimum.

The lawyer is required to undergo a professional conduct training course and notify the Law Society upon completion if he wishes to resume practising.

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