Robyn Tampoe, Schapelle Corby’s solicitor

Update, 10 June 2009: Mr Tampoe has been struck off the roll of solicitors.

Update, 7 July 2008: Watch the video of Tampoe slagging off his client here.

Original post: Lawyers and their regulators should care about the Corby case, because at the relevant time, a lot of people loved Schapelle and Schapelle does not now much like her lawyers. One of them has hit back, calling the Corbys “the biggest pile of trash I have ever come across in my life”. People will think this is normal, or at least the tip of the iceberg. And much confusion seems to be going around about Mr Tampoe’s fabrication of a defence for Corby. For giving this interview, and saying this, I condemn Mr Tampoe, who is no longer a solicitor, with all my fibre. What I question below is whether the media have got their reportage of his claim to have completely fabricated the defence right — if he means what I imagine he means, I say — so what? Whether or not the media have got it right, I reckon his comments might well harm his former client. They could have been personally deeply hurtful, they could affect her treatment in jail, they could affect any claim for clemency she might in the future make, and they could affect the result of the prisoner exchange treaty negotiations underway between the Australian and Indonesian governments, or the speed with which they progress. Continue reading “Robyn Tampoe, Schapelle Corby’s solicitor”

Rise of the celebrity QC and of Australian lawyer rankings

Update, 7 June 2008: The Age‘s weekend magazine had a front cover profile of Dave Hughes, and the same day the June Australian Financial Review Magazine had a front cover profile of Tom Hughes. Diverse and powerful as Tom’s family is, I do not think it counts Dave as a member. This is the most fawning, glossy QC portrait in the series: no fewer than 7 photos, two full-pagers.   The hagiographical profile reminded me that Tom is art critic Robert Hughes’s brother.  Before court, he works Jesuitically for four hours every day on the 62nd floor of the MLC Tower, leaving for work at 4.55 a.m.  He has been a barrister for almost 60 years. These days, his junior is often his son Tom Hughes.  His daughter Lucy is one-time mayor of Sydney and happens to be married to Malcolm Turnbull.  France gave him a legion of honour for his service in World War II.  He was mates with Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Frank Packer, and Sir John Gorton. He argued in the Privy Council.  He was for 16 months Attorney-General in Gorton’s government: John Howard was his campaign manager when he got elected.  He enthused mightily about the American intervention in Vietnam. What is most interesting however, is that this is not the first front page profile Hughes has suffered:

‘In early 1978, the now-defunct Bulletin magazine, owned by Kerry Packer’s Australian Consolidate Press, splashed across its cover a large photo of Tom Hughes, with a story headlined “From Silk to Riches — Portrait of a $1,000 a day QC”.  Soon afer the article appeared, its author, Malcolm Turnbull, sent a bouquet of roses around to Tom Hughes’s chambers for his daughter, Lucy, then aged 19, who had just completed first-year law.  Turnbull married Lucy Hughes two years later.’

Update, 23 April 2008: Now The Times has published its list of the 100 most powerful English lawyers. Sir Igor Judge is right up there in the top ten.

Original post: It’s not just Peter Faris, with his blog, his until-recently radio show, his comments about the Fijian judiciary in the Fiji Times, and repeated Age profiles. Has anyone else noticed the rise of the celebrity QC profile? The glossy Melbourne Magazine, published monthly by The Age, had a profile of Julian Burnside QC last year. Like Geoffrey Robertson QC (remember his hypotheticals?), Mr Burnside writes and his profile was part of the publishing cycle, tied in with his new book. But Colin Lovitt QC — best known for representing Jaidyn Leskie’s babysitter, Greg Domaszewicz — profiled in Royal Auto? (Turns out from the profile he did the whole thing pro bono.) And, Alan Myers QC, of all people, the very exemplar of the traditional Bar, reminiscing about his first tax case in The Australian Financial Review? Is it a trend I see?

Mr Myers’ profile was part of another new phenomenon, lawyer ranking blinged up to the next level, a great big US-inspired lift-out supplement to the AFR’s Legal Affairs pages. Continue reading “Rise of the celebrity QC and of Australian lawyer rankings”

Stephen Keim SC, Dr Haneef’s barrister

A delegate of John Britton, Queensland’s Legal Services Commissioner, has declined to lay disciplinary charges against Dr Haneef’s lawyer, Stephen Keim QC, despite finding a clear breach of a rule of professional conduct, and that — to my astonishment — Mr Keim gave his client’s record of interview to The Australian without having sought Dr Haneef’s instructions. Continue reading “Stephen Keim SC, Dr Haneef’s barrister”

Julian Burnside, his book and his take on the Peter Faris affair

Julian Burnside QC is one of 4 Victorians whom I know to have had Wikipedia entries as barristers. The others are Mark Dreyfus QC, Lex Lasry QC, and Peter Faris QC. (Are there any others?) Julian Burnside has become a writer, Mark Dreyfus a federal politician, and Lex Lasry a judge of the Supreme Court. All but Peter Faris were in Latham Chambers with me.

Now Julian Burnside has written a new book, Watching Brief. Here’s an extract published in The Age. I almost bought it in the bookshop today, but then I thought of all the other books I have to read, and I’d just bought The Legal Mystique (1982, Angus & Robertson) by Michael Sexton and Laurence Maher (‘drugs’ is not an entry in the index) to add to my collection of books about the legal profession. The collection’s coming along nicely since yet another legend of Latham Chambers, Jeff Sher, gave me a little manila-covered book by W.W. Boulton, B.A., Secretary to the General Council of the [English] Bar, published by Butterworths in London in 1971: Conduct and Ettiquette at the Bar. And a friend of mine has promised to permanently lend me Gifford’s Legal Profession; Law and Practice in Victoria. I figured I’d probably buy and read Andrew Fraser’s memoirs before Julian’s latest. But I might change my mind about that, because I imagine Fraser’s is the more interesting, but Burnside’s the better written. In fact, I suspect the writing in Burnside’s is to die for.

Because of the book, he’s on the media circuit. Here’s his interview with Monica Attard. His reference to a ‘marijuana cigarette’ brings to mind by far the most interesting contribution to the Peter Faris debate, which was the Law Institute’s President’s quip to the press that most barristers wouldn’t even know what cocaine is. But Monica, I’m not at all sure that the Bar is investigating whether Mr Faris is a fit and proper person to be a barrister; where did you get that from? Continue reading “Julian Burnside, his book and his take on the Peter Faris affair”

Peter Faris’s comments about drugs and the Bar

Update, 10 June 2008: The Bar’s Ethics Committee dropped the investigation without giving reasons.

Update, 23 November: The press just can’t seem to believe that anyone would be called Issac Brott, inevitably reverting to the more plausible Isaac Brott. And nor do they seem to be reading this blog. Here’s The Australian again claiming the Bar is ‘threatening to end the legal career’ of Peter Faris. I am not aware of any such threat.

Update, 13 November: I suggested below that if there is to be a debate it should be about the merits of the conduct rule they’re wondering if Mr Faris might have broken. It is a close relation of contempt by scandalising the judiciary. Oyiela Litaba’s recent article in the Deakin Law Review may be of interest in that regard: ‘Does the “Offence” of Contempt by Scandalising the Court have a Valid Place in the Law of Modern Day Australia?’ [2003] Deakin LRev 6. I should reiterate that I express no opinion on the question, and I am not sure what my opinion would be if I thought about it properly.

Original post: The Ethics Committee of the Victorian Bar has written to fellow Melbourne law blogger Peter Faris QC who has resigned as a consequence and joined the ranks of solicitors. When colourful Melbourne silk Peter Hayes died this year in circumstances said to have been associated with drugs, Mr Faris made comments on his blog about the prevalence of drugs at the Bar, but he did not name any names. That original post, and this one are still up on his blog. I am not sure whether it is the blog post, or other comments Mr Faris made, which got up the nose of the Ethics Committee. The Bar insisted on knowing the names, and when none were forthcoming, it wrote to advise him it was considering writing to the Legal Services Commissioner.

Two things interest me about the whole affair, the substance of which I do not propose to comment on. First, I think the free speech discussion could get a bit more sophisticated. That would involve a focus on the rule which prohibits conduct which would bring the profession into disrepute. Seems to me a debate about whether that is a good rule would be a much more fruitful one than anything presently being tossed around by commentators. Secondly, there is a misunderstanding about what role the Ethics Committee is playing. Being the pedant that I am, I point it out for the benefit of the newspapers. Continue reading “Peter Faris’s comments about drugs and the Bar”

Barristers and the media

Generally speaking, lawyers and the media are a subject of ongoing controversy. I felt very uneasy about Schappelle Corby’s barristers turning on her and suggesting that other members of her legal team were paying bribes. It seemed hard to believe that Corby had sanctioned that course. The English Bar Standards Board’s website summarises the situation in England. The relevant Victorian Bar’s rules of conduct are reproduced below. They restrict only comment on cases with which the barrister is directly involved, but there is of course a complex web of other rules and laws which restrict what barristers may say about court cases. Some of them which apply in NSW are enumerated on this page. The Victorian rules say this: Continue reading “Barristers and the media”

WA solicitor guilty of unprofessional conduct in “No compensation = No legal fees” ad

Legal Practitioners’ Complaints Committee v SJB [2006] WASAT 201

It is a serious crime in Western Australia to advertise in a way calculated to cause a person make a personal injury claim. A solicitor ran ads headed “Injured in a road accident and made a claim? If so, read on. [footnote: If you have not made a claim, disregard this advertisement.]” A narrow construction of the provision was adopted, consistent with the seriousness of the offence it created, and no breach was found. But not enough was done to explain “No compensation = No legal fees” and the misleading nature of those words amounted to unprofessional conduct as a falling short of the standard of conduct observed and approved by members of the profession of good repute and competence. Continue reading “WA solicitor guilty of unprofessional conduct in “No compensation = No legal fees” ad”