High Court decision - Hart v Auckland Standards Committee
MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate use, 5 February 2013
Law Society comments on High Court decision
Today’s High Court judgment upholding the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal decision to strike Barry John Hart from the roll of barristers and solicitors endorses the Law Society’s determination to persist with disciplinary charges against Mr Hart.
“This has been a long and drawn-out proceeding and the judgment shows very clearly that our justice system takes a very serious view of a failure to co-operate promptly with the disciplinary process,” Law Society President Jonathan Temm said today.
“The High Court has found that Mr Hart did not readily comply with lawful requests made by the disciplinary bodies and that he deliberately obstructed the investigation and misused the process in order to delay matters.
“This decision of the High Court reminds the legal profession that a failure to co-operate with the organisations which are required to maintain discipline among lawyers could lower public confidence in the legal profession.”
Mr Temm said being struck off was a very severe penalty. While it meant the end of a lawyer’s career, both the Tribunal and the High Court had upheld the need to protect the community and ensure all New Zealanders could be confident that lawyers would co-operate fully with investigation of any matters relating to their professional conduct.
“In New Zealand we have a legal profession which performs to a high standard and generally delivers excellent advice and services. The High Court’s decision today demonstrates that anyone using a lawyer can be confident that the system of regulation is robust and effective.”
He said the High Court had also dismissed Mr Hart’s appeal against the finding that he had grossly overcharged a client. The Law Society welcomed the court’s comments that lawyers must not exploit clients and must not charge more than their work is worth.