Auckland lawyer Donald Bruce Thomas was censured for misconduct by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal last week.
According to a report by the New Zealand Law Society
, Thomas admitted to the misconduct, where he released money held on behalf of a trust for the purchase of a property without the consent of one of the two trustees.
He was charged by the tribunal of recklessly breaching section 110 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and regulation 12(6) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account) Regulations 2008.
The trustees, a separated husband and wife, were in negotiations over the division of the trust and settlement of relationship property.
Thomas had previously made an application to the Family Court to have the funds released but the tribunal said he should have applied to the High Court for the removal of the husband as trustee. Instead he allowed his judgment to be clouded by his frustration, the Tribunal said.
The Tribunal did note that the misconduct was not carried out with dishonesty or personal gain and he had had a long career without any other blemish.
Thomas was ordered to pay compensation of $2,898, costs to the New Zealand Law Society
of $10,907 and hearing reimbursement costs of $2,101.