Summary A drunken male barrister approached a seated female assistant clerk whom he did not know at a dinner at a barristers’ clerks conference, lightly pushed her head downwards towards the table and away from his person and said to her in her colleagues’ presence ‘suck my dick’, moments after greeting another barrister on the clerk’s floor, his friend, at the table by sticking his middle finger out, grabbing the other barrister’s head and pulling it to and from his crotch. Continue reading “The ‘suck my dick’ case”
LPUL’s transitional provisions
Nothing is quite as un-fun as argument about transitional provisions, but it is often unavoidable, since disciplinary tribunals are usually creatures of statute, and if the new or the old statute is mistakenly invoked, the Tribunal may purport to exercise jurisdiction which it does not have, with the result that its orders will be nullities which may be disregarded even absent an appeal: The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd v Victoria  VSCA 146 at . I suspect the people who dream up these things would say that counsel have an obligation to assist Tribunals to avoid over-reaching.
This post principally considers Griffin v The Council of the Law Society of NSW  NSWCA 364, a judgment of Sackville AJA with whom Ward and Gleeson JJA agreed, and Council of the NSW Bar Association v Nagle  NSWCATOD 104, a decision of the Hon F Marks, Principal Member.
If you have been the subject of disciplinary orders since 1 July 2015, you might want to dust them off and check whether the correct Applicant sought them under the correct legislation. If not, you might be entitled to disregard them, and require their removal from the disciplinary register.
To save you from having to puzzle over the detail of what follows, here is my summary, which assumes that you understand that Schedule 1 to the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act (Vic), which Schedule I refer to as ‘the LPUL’, stands as a law of NSW by virtue of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act (NSW): Continue reading “LPUL’s transitional provisions”
Yet more on the obligation on Legal Services Commissioners to plead their case properly and stick to it
Legal Services Commissioner v AL  QCAT 237 is a decision of a disciplinary tribunal presided over by Justice David Thomas, President of QCAT and a Supreme Court judge. It is therefore of high persuasive value, and treats Queensland provisions which are the same as the equivalent Victorian provisions. And it provides what I suggest with respect are the correct answers to the following questions:
- How negligent do you have to be before you can be found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct as defined in provisions which say that the concept includes ‘conduct that falls short of the standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent’ lawyer holding a practising certificate? (Answer at  and : substantial and very obvious fallings short of the standard, established by direct inferences from exact proofs.)
- What must be pleaded specifically in a disciplinary charge? (Answer at  – : all states of mind, not only dishonest intents, and all facts to be relied on (‘the charges to be levelled must be fully and adequately set out in the Discipline Application. As a matter of procedural fairness, the Practitioner should not be left in any doubt as to the extent of the allegations that is to be met.’)
- To what extent is a disciplinary tribunal constrained in its decision making by the allegations specifically made in the charge? (Answer at  – : absolutely: if no state of mind is alleged, the prosecution should not be allowed to call evidence as to state of mind; ‘it would be wrong to admit evidence the principal purpose of which is to establish conduct that lies beyond the ambit of the charge’.)
- Does the mere fact that charges are not allowed on taxation mean that there has been overcharging such as to warrant discipline? (Answer at  – : no)
The Tribunal dismissed charges against a solicitor who lodged a caveat pursuant to an equitable mortgage without checking that it satisfied the Statute of Frauds’ writing requirements and against a partner of her firm who took over her files when she was on holidays and billed the client for the work in attempting unsuccessfully to register the caveat.
I move from the specific facts of this QCAT case to general comment (what follows is certainly not veiled reference to the conduct of the Commissioner’s counsel in QCAT). There is a very real reason to insist on the particularization of states of mind in disciplinary tribunals, including particulars of actual and constructive knowledge. These details do not always get left out just because it is thought that disciplinary tribunals are not courts of pleading and such minutiae is not appropriate. Nor do they just get left out because they are thought to be inherent in the allegation, or because of incompetence, or mere mistake. Rather, they get left out because bureaucrats have investigated incompetently and when competent counsel come to plead disciplinary applications based on the investigation, they do not have a sufficient factual foundation to make these allegations, or perhaps are simply too timid.
But sometimes counsel with civil practices, untutored in the art of prosecutorial restraint, and safe in their private belief that the practitioner is in fact much more evil than incompetent investigation established, might fall prey to temptation. Mealy-mouthed, ambiguous allegations might be made which require the practitioner to get into the witness box. Then, all manner of unpleaded allegations as to states of mind and as to completely un-pleaded conduct, justified in relevance as tendency evidence or circumstantial evidence of the pleaded facts, might be cross-examined out of the practitioner and an unpleaded case presented to the disciplinary tribunal in closing. In a tribunal not bound by the rules of evidence, such questioning may be waved through with lip service to the proposition that objections will be dealt with by according appropriate weight to the evidence in the final analysis. Queensland leads the charge against such conduct, and I can’t help thinking it’s because Supreme Court judges seem to get involved in disciplinary decisions more often up there. All power to them. So impressed am I with this latest judgment, I have decided to go on a study tour of the Sunshine Coast in the September school holidays.
Continue reading “Yet more on the obligation on Legal Services Commissioners to plead their case properly and stick to it”
Self-represented solicitor guilty of misconduct for breaching a rule expressed to regulate conduct when acting for a client
A Western Australian disciplinary case, Legal Profession Complaints Committee v CSA  WASAT 57 is interesting in a number of ways. A criminal lawyer was the manager of a strata corporation. She owned two units and the complainant the third. The complainant affixed an airconditioner to a wall which impeded on a common area. She sought legal advice. Her lawyers wrote a letter of demand to the complainant and charged a few thousand dollars. The complainant did not fix the problem within the 14 days demanded, so the lawyer sued in the Magistrates’ Court. The case was settled on the basis that the airconditioner would be relocated and the lawyer withdrew the proceeding without seeking costs. When the complainant sold the third unit, the lawyer demanded that the complainant pay her the few thousand dollars her lawyers had charged her for the advice and the letter of demand. She did so by a letter of demand drafted for her by another lawyer, though the involvement of this second lawyer only emerged at the disciplinary hearing. When the complainant did not pay up, she sued for them in her personal capacity. The suit was found to have no legal foundation, but the lawyer said that she mistakenly thought that it did have a legal foundation, and that civil proceedings were not her thing. The case says:
1. The suit was an abuse of process because there was no legal foundation for suing for the recovery of ‘pre-litigation’ legal costs.
2. The lawyer’s conduct in threatening to bring and then bringing a suit which was an abuse of process was common law misconduct but was also a breach of a rule which prohibited lawyers from claiming on behalf of a client costs in a letter of demand for recovery of a debt because she was acting for herself in writing the letter (even though no legal letterhead or reference to her status as a lawyer was involved).
3. There is no defence of honest and reasonable mistake in professional discipline.
4. It is inappropriate for a disciplinary tribunal to make what the prosecutors described as ‘an incidental finding of dishonesty’ in relation to statements made during the investigation in respect of which no charge had been laid in the disciplinary proceeding. Any such allegation ought to be the subject of a separate process (though the Tribunal then went ahead and found that the allegation was not made out on the Briginshaw standard anyway). Continue reading “Self-represented solicitor guilty of misconduct for breaching a rule expressed to regulate conduct when acting for a client”
VCAT rolled for finding solicitor guilty of a charge not levelled against him
Justice Karin Emerton seems to be emerging as one of the Supreme Court’s specialists in what I call the law about lawyers, much of which is found in the Legal Profession Act 2004. Early on in her judicial career, her Honour was assigned to the hearing of the extraordinary suite of matters between the Legal Services Board and David Forster. Her Honour’s latest characteristically clear and concise judgment in this area of the law (PS v Legal Services Commissioner  VSC 185) was delivered yesterday, in which she allowed an appeal from a disciplinary decision of VCAT’s Legal Practice List. The Victorian solicitor who was the appellant was represented by another specialist in the law relating to lawyers, Martin Randall, whom I expect was a leading expert in the area before I was born, and a gentleman to boot. Her Honour set aside VCAT’s decision because it found the solicitor guilty of conduct he was not charged with. The Commissioner urged her Honour instead to substitute a more appropriate decision, namely that the solicitor was guilty of the charge as drawn, but her Honour said: Wrong way! Go back. Continue reading “VCAT rolled for finding solicitor guilty of a charge not levelled against him”
Parties cannot by agreement give jurisdiction to a tribunal it does not have
Some things you learn the hard way. One of my earliest appearances, as a young solicitor at a packed directions hearing before the notorious Master Patkin of the County Court, involved a discussion of the Court’s jurisdiction which I had not seen coming. I suggested that the other side had consented to jurisdiction. It earnt me a Socratic lecture, in public. Here is what the law says, as recounted recently in Neill v Legal Profession Complaints Committee  WASCA 48 at :
‘In Pantorno v The Queen (1989) 166 CLR 466, the High Court made it clear that parties who agree a proposition of law cannot bind a court. Parties cannot by consent confer jurisdiction on a tribunal if none exists: see R v Moore (1976) 11 ALR 449 and Australian Education Union v Lawler (2008) 169 FCR 327 at .’
Of course it is not quite as simple as that. Never is. Creatures of statute may provide by the statute for the parties to agree on the creature having jurisdiction which it otherwise does not have. The Magistrates’ Court Act, 1989, s. 100(1)(c), for example, provides for the parties to agree on the Court hearing a case where more than its jurisdictional limit of $100,000 is at stake. Some imperfect knowledge of that proposition was what led me astray.
Supreme Courts’ inherent jurisdiction to discipline lawyers to be invoked sparingly
Update, 5 March 2012: See also, to similar effect, Bott v Carter  NSWSC 236 at  – .
Original post: In AM v Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal  NTSC 02, a Full Court of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory heard an appeal by way of rehearing into a decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal (see my earlier post on the case). One of the grounds of appeal was that the Tribunal had not had jurisdiction. The Law Society of the Northern Territory argued that whether or not the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal had had jurisdiction, the matter was now before the Court on a rehearing and it could exercise its inherent jurisdiction, rendering the fascinating jurisdictional questions irrelevant. ‘I don’t think so!’, said the Chief Justice, with whom Justice Riley agreed. ‘Wrong way, go back!’ they said with emphasis, noting that the Northern Territory was not the wild West:
‘ The Law Society submitted that if this Court was of the view that the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction, as the evidence and the matter of the practitioner’s conduct is now before the Court, it should exercise its inherent jurisdiction over the profession by dealing with the practitioner in respect of her conduct. This approach would require this Court to rely on evidence placed before the Tribunal in the course of invalid proceedings. Counsel for the practitioner submitted that as the Law Society chose the Tribunal route, it would be inappropriate for this Court to exercise other than the appellate jurisdiction. As counsel put it it is “counter-intuitive” to make use of material put before the Tribunal and, if the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction, justice demands a fresh proceeding. To exercise the inherent jurisdiction de novo would involve formulating a charge and carrying the baggage of the old proceedings. Overall, suggested counsel, exercising the inherent jurisdiction would carry with it a flavour of the “wild west”.
 In my view, there is considerable force in the submissions of counsel for the practitioner. If I am wrong in my view that the Tribunal possessed jurisdiction, in my opinion this Court should not endeavour to exercise its inherent jurisdiction.’
Commissioner’s obligation to charge dishonesty if he intends to allege it
Relatively recently, I posted on the question of whether a Bureau de Spank desiring to rely on a practitioner’s dishonesty or other form of conscious wrongdoing must expressly allege it in the charge, and discussed Walter v Council of Queensland Law Society Incorporated (1988) 77 ALR 228 at 234;  HCA 8. Now, in Legal Services Commissioner v Madden (No 2)  QCA 301 the Queensland Court of Appeal has had a go, and reversed a decision of the Court’s Chief Justice sitting on the Legal Practice Tribunal. The solicitor had previously been disciplined in relation to his trust account. He was charged with gross delay in litigation which resulted in applications by the other side to compel the achievement of various interlocutory steps. He dealt with those applications without advising his client, agreed on his client’s behalf to pay costs, withdrew money to pay those costs from monies held in trust on account of fees and disbursements, and then charged the client fees for his work in fixing up his own mistake. He also acted for both husband and wife in the preparation of a pre-nup, apparently stuffing it up, and then later acted in a matrimonial dispute for the husband alone, described as a particularly obvious conflict of duties.
The Chief Justice made findings of dishonesty in the absence of any allegation of dishonesty in the charge. One might say, in fact, that he went out of his way to do so. First he sought comment in relation to whether on the agreed facts, the Tribunal was free to draw inferences that dishonesty actuated the solicitor’s conduct, and invited the Commissioner to amend the charge so as to allow exploration of that issue. His Honour adjourned the hearing to give the Commissioner time to think about that. On the return of the hearing, the Commissioner declined the invitation to amend. So the Tribunal put out a document specifying, as a matter of procedural fairness, the inferences it was considering drawing, and invited argument. The solicitor swore an affidavit responding to the Tribunal’s document. The Commissioner’s counsel cross-examined the solicitor, but did not put it to him that he had acted dishonestly. The Tribunal then concluded that the solicitor had acted dishonestly, and decided to strike him off rather than go with the fine and reprimand recommended by the Commissioner. Ooffa!
‘Wrong way. Go back!’ said the Court of Appeal. It started with a general proposition:
’54 It is … a well recognised rule of practice in civil proceedings that, although the word “dishonesty” is not necessarily required, any charge of dishonesty must be made in clear terms. In a well known passage in Belmont Finance Corporation Ltd v Williams Furniture Ltd & Ors  Ch 250 at 268 Buckley LJ said: Continue reading “Commissioner’s obligation to charge dishonesty if he intends to allege it”
State Acts’ power to regulate local lawyers’ overseas conduct
In Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee and MT QC  WASAT 42, Judge Eckert’s 3 member tribunal considered the application to the Western Australian Legal Practice Act, 2003 of the laws relating to the power of state governments to make legislation regulating overseas conduct (i.e. ‘the law of extraterritoriality’). Her Honour is Deputy President of the State Administrative Tribunal, and a judge of Western Australia’s District Court. The Tribunal held that the Western Australian parliament had the power to make laws providing for the discipline of Western Australian lawyers who did things overseas which infringed the norms of their Australian peers, and that the parliament had in fact done so. Her Honour also considered the relevance of compliance with overseas norms, and who has the burden of proving those norms. This is one to store away for when you read it. The relevant passage is: Continue reading “State Acts’ power to regulate local lawyers’ overseas conduct”
What happens when complainant lodges complaint with wrong regulator and it gets transferred
In Byrne v Marles  VSCA 78, the subject of this earlier post, another issue arose. Justice Nettle confirmed that a complaint made to anyone other than the Commissioner is invalid as a trigger for the operation of the Legal Profession Act, 2004, but that if it finds its way to the Commissioner otherwise than by the complainant re-lodging it with her, and the complainant says he’s happy for the complaint to continue as a complaint to the Commissioner, then that counts as a deemed lodging by the complainant of a complaint with the correct regulator. Continue reading “What happens when complainant lodges complaint with wrong regulator and it gets transferred”
Victorian Legal Services Commissioner’s 2006-2007 annual report
The Legal Services Commissioner’s annual report went online today. You can download the pdf by clicking here. The big news is that she’s put 2 new blokes on the staff, but the blokes to sheila ratio has actually decreased (to 1 in 20).
In the year to 30 June 2007, the Commissioner’s staff of 45 (including 6 part-timers) closed 2550 files. At the end of the disciplinary complaint process, the Commissioner has to decide whether the complaint is made out, unless it was summarily dismissed earlier. The test is whether VCAT would be reasonably likely to find a practitioner guilty of professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct. 5,089 enquiries gave rise to 1,487 disciplinary complaints, yielding a single instance where the Commissioner thought it was reasonably likely that VCAT would find the practitioner guilty of misconduct, and that was the matter reported in my previous post in which the barrister made a full confession from the outset of the investigation. The three other misconduct prosecutions were for failure to cooperate with the Commissioner’s investigations.
The 1,487 disciplinary complaints also yielded 64 instances where the Commissioner thought it was reasonably likely that VCAT would find the practitioner guilty of the lesser disciplinary offence of unsatisfactory conduct. She has a discretion whether to prosecute in these instances. She exercised that discretion in favour of laying charges just once, when some scamp attempted to charge for storage or retrieval of documents without a written agreement by the client. So 2 charges were laid as a result of the 5,089 enquiries. Additionally, 3 charges were laid because of non-cooperation with investigations. And 28 slaps over the wrist were privately inflicted in the form of reprimands and cautions. So: pity the professional discipline Bar, all hail to an unprecedentedly well behaved profession, and shame on the great unwashed for making all those hurtful allegations which went nowhere and cost the revenue $7 million. Continue reading “Victorian Legal Services Commissioner’s 2006-2007 annual report”
Doctor’s opinion not given in trade or commerce so VCAT had no jurisdiction
In a landmark decision with profound implications for VCAT’s Fair Trading Act, 1958 jurisdiction over lawyer-client disputes about professional negligence and fees, a Deputy President of VCAT has recognised that it did not have jurisdiction to hear a former client’s misleading and deceptive conduct claim brought against ‘a professional’ in the traditional sense of the word, in relation to professional advice. The claim was brought under s. 9 of the Fair Trading Act, 1958 (the state analogue of s. 52 of the Trade Practices Act, 1974), which says:
“(1) A person must not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive”.
The case is Stagliano v Duke  VCAT 1070. The applicant was injured at work, and made a Workcover claim. His employer’s Workcover insurers had him examined. The doctor wrote a report and sent it to the insurer. That professional opinion was not given in trade or commerce, even though it was given pursuant to a contract with the insurer, and for a fee, Deputy President Steel held, for the following reasons: Continue reading “Doctor’s opinion not given in trade or commerce so VCAT had no jurisdiction”
Confirmed: your client can privately prosecute you for misconduct
Acting President Bowman handed down a decision on Friday in Cedric Naylor’s Case  VCAT 958 approving the existing practice of VCAT, and before it the Legal Profession Tribunal, of entertaining professional misconduct allegations against lawyers by their clients as part of applications to set aside costs agreements. Entertaining them, that is, outside the disciplinary investigation and prosecution procedures in Part 5 of the old Legal Practice Act, 1996, and regardless of whether those who otherwise prosecute disciplinary charges would have brought a charge. Under the old Act, a costs agreement could be set aside upon proof by the client of (i) dishonesty in the solicitor, or (ii) misconduct or unprofessional conduct in the retainer, or (iii) a want of fairness and reasonableness of the agreement. Judge Bowman ruled that it was not necessary for the solicitor to be found guilty of misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct in the ordinary way, by a prosecution by a legal regulator under the disciplinary provisionso of the Act before the client could rely on the second ground, but he did say that if misconduct is made out in an old Act case, then no disciplinary consequences such as a suspension of a practising certificate can follow in that hearing. But, armed with the result in the s. 103 application, there seems to be nothing to stop the client sending the reasons in to the regulator and requesting investigation of the conduct already determined to be misconduct by the body which would hear any charge flowing from the investigation. And so, of course, there seems to be nothing to stop the client from threatening to do so in little spats over fees.
Continue reading “Confirmed: your client can privately prosecute you for misconduct”
Judge Bowman explains Murray’s Case
VCAT’s Acting President Judge Bowman today handed down a long and important decision in relation to the relationship between alleged failures to follow the procedures for investigating complaints against professionals laid down by legislation and the jurisdiction of the disciplinary tribunal to hear charges laid as a result of such investigations. After eight months’ thought, his Honour decided that VCAT did have jurisdiction in the matter of Law Institute of Victoria Ltd v IAB  VCAT 808, and that anything which could have been done better by the Law Institute were not productive of such unfairness as to invalidate the charge laid in the tribunal. In the course of doing so, he provided this summary of the leading case on point, Murray v Legal Services Commissioner (1999) 46 NSWR 224:
VCAT’s jurisdiction over post-proceedings Family Law fees
Senior Member Howell determined today in M v JC Lawyers  VCAT 273 that VCAT had jurisdiction to entertain a costs dispute about solicitor-client fees of post-proceedings negotiations under the threat of mutual applications to reopen under the change of circumstances provisions the final orders of the Family Court made 9 years previously. Continue reading “VCAT’s jurisdiction over post-proceedings Family Law fees”
Staying disciplinary proceedings as abuses of process
Update, 23 December 2009: Doubt is cast on the correctness of Hunt AJA’s comments by Hodgson JA, the other justices of appeal agreeing, in Council of the NSW Bar Association v A (2008) 72 NSWLR 236 at 249;  NSWCA 164 ().
Original post: The following passage from the NSW Court of Appeal’s decision in Lindsay v Health Care Complaints Commission  NSWCA 356 (Hunt AJA, others agreeing) casts some doubt on whether a medical disciplinary tribunal presided over by a judge had power to stay a disciplinary proceeding as an abuse of process. The issue arose in the context of which the legislation provided that “The members of the Tribunal are to conduct an inquiry into any complaint … referred to it”, and then, later “It is the duty of a Committee and the Tribunal to hear inquiries and appeals under this Act and to determine those inquiries and appeals expeditiously.” As the Court noted, “Both provisions express the obligation of the Tribunal to exercise that jurisdiction in unusually mandatory terms”. Continue reading “Staying disciplinary proceedings as abuses of process”
The great delegation debacle: B (A solicitor) v Victorian Lawyers RPA Ltd
B (A Solicitor) v Victorian Lawyers RPA Ltd (2002) 6 VR 642 (Ormiston, Charles and Batt JJA)
The Law Institute of Victoria Limited used to be named Victorian Lawyers RPA Ltd. It, and the Victorian Bar, were the only two RPAs (Recognised Professional Associations) set up under the Legal Practice Act, 1996, which allowed for an unlimited number of RPAs. Under s. 313 of that Act, it was entitled to delegate in writing powers and functions to employees. If it did not do so, its board (styled “the Council”) would have had to make every decision.
The Law Institute charged two solicitors with misconduct. Six months later, it sought leave to withdrew the charges, on the basis that its “failure to follow strict process” had resulted in the charge laid being a nullity. The Tribunal allowed the Law Institute to do so, refused to dismiss the charges, and refused to order costs.
The Law Institute’s Council minuted a recommendation that its powers under s. 151, the provision requiring the RPA to take certain courses at the end of a disciplinary investigation, and giving it certain discretions, be delegated to its CEO, Ian Dunn. At the end of the minutes, the word “confirmed” was typed, and they were signed by the Chair.
Pursuant to s. 151, Dunn signed new charges against the same solicitors, purportedly as delegate of the Law Institute. The Court of Appeal found that the Legal Profession Tribunal had erred in finding it had jurisdiction. It found that a written minute of an oral recommendation to delegate a power was not a written instrument of delegation. Because the person who signed the charge had no authority to do so, the Tribunal’s jurisdiction was not properly invoked, and it had no jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal ordered the charges dismissed.
For the peak lawyers’ body in the State practising under the business name “Professional Standards” it was an embarrassing lapse which threw the world of professional discipline into chaos for months (Ormiston JA observed at  that he found it “surprising that a body made up of qualified and experienced lawyers should take a course as was here adopted without there having been some explicit authority which would justify their actions”.) Because the procedural defect did not apply only to the particular delegation in question, huge numbers of decisions stood amenable of being set aside, or ignored (since an order made by a statutory Tribunal without jurisdiction need not be obeyed). Urgent retrospective legislation had to be rushed through parliament.
The architects of this most exquisitely technical of victories were Terry O’Conner and barristers he retained, Rod Garrett QC and Bob Miller.
Continue reading “The great delegation debacle: B (A solicitor) v Victorian Lawyers RPA Ltd”
Court of Appeal reads down VCAT’s jurisdiction to make orders in matters related to proceedings within its jurisdiction
In The Herald & Weekly Times Pty Ltd v Victoria  VSCA 146, the facts of which are described in the previous post, VCAT’s Presdient Justice Morris, having found that the principle of functus officio was not an impediment to him reinstating the relevant proceeding and making further orders, purported to join the newspaper as a party and enjoined it from publishing the details of the terms of settlement lawfully procured by its journalist’s search of VCAT’s file. He found that to publish the details of the expressly confidential settlement would be a breach of an equitable duty of confidentiality. The newspaper said that his Honour had no jurisdiction to make an order against someone who was a stranger to the proceeding but for the reinstatement of the proceeding and the addition of them as a party in order to provide a vehicle by which to make the order. The Court of Appeal agreed. Continue reading “Court of Appeal reads down VCAT’s jurisdiction to make orders in matters related to proceedings within its jurisdiction”
Bankrupt may not initiate dispute resolution procedure in relation to rights accrued prior to bankruptcy
Kaiser v Faulkner  VCAT 1302
What this case illustrates is simply that upon bankruptcy the right to seek compensation or the waiver or diminution of legal costs through the dispute process under the Legal Practice Act, 1996 vests in the trustee in bankruptcy and never revests in the bankrupt even if not taken up by the trustee. Continue reading “Bankrupt may not initiate dispute resolution procedure in relation to rights accrued prior to bankruptcy”
The Law Institute exercised jurisdiction it didn’t have on receiving a pecuniary loss dispute resolution request from a bankrupt
Said Georges’ Case  VCAT 414
Upon bankruptcy certain causes of action vest in the trustee in bankruptcy, and others do not: see ss. 58(1) and 116(2) Bankruptcy Act, 1966. This dispute vested in the trustee upon the client’s bankruptcy, but the trustee wrote the client a letter consenting to “the bankrupt’s pursuit of the dispute with [the solicitor] by lodging the appropriate applications to the Legal Profession Tribunal”. Mr Butcher found that though the trustee probably had the power to engage the bankrupt client to pursue the claim for the benefit of the estate, but “the letter does not indicate to me that such was the intention of the trustee”, and dismissed the dispute.
Evidently, this was a matter overlooked by the Law Institute which blithely exercised jurisdiction it did not have, to the detriment not only of the taxpayer’s pocket but of the solicitor’s.
Bernard Sheehy was for the solicitor, and Alan Hebb for the Tribunal.