No problem with solicitors asserting liens over passports

Passports remain property of the government even after they have been issued, and it is a crime to have in your possession or control the passport of another without a reasonable excuse: ss. 6A and 9A Passports Act, 1938.  A solicitor may exercise a lien over property of the client received by her in the course of a retainer.  Is a client’s passport a document over which she may assert such a lien? The answer is yes, because the client’s status as bailee of the passport is a sufficient proprietary interest for the purposes of lien law to bring it within the class of things, as against the client, over which a lien may be exercised: CYX v Council of the Law Society of NSW [2009] NSWCA 430.  Another aspect of this decision is the subject of this post.

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