The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has found an Auckland lawyer, Boon Gunn Hong, guilty of misconduct for “persistent personal attacks” and “threats of menace” to another lawyer, Frank Deliu.
Between 2010 and 2012, the pair were engaged in a heated dispute involving a series of emails around a court case between both Hong and Deliu. While Deliu was seen as being confrontational at times during the incident, the judge said that Hong had “brought the legal profession into disrepute” through his actions, Stuff
“Although provocative conduct by another practitioner, (and Mr Deliu’s conduct was undoubtedly provocative) may be relevant context to conduct, no practitioner is justified in responding to the conduct of another in the way that Mr Hong did,” Justice Winkelmann said.
The dispute began when Hong received a letter from Deliu informing him that he was being sued by one of his previous clients whom Deliu was representing.
In what the Tribunal described as the “nadir” of the communications, Hong threatened physical violence against Deliu if he should ever approach him.
“Yes, [the barrister] better be concerned about [his] safety should he attempt to approach my office or me having been warned previously not to do so…but it should not be my two [dogs] that he should be beware [of], it should be the ‘sorry end of my stick’!” he wrote in one of the emails.
“This warning from me to him is therefore to put it on record that I am very concerned and may strike pre-emptively on his approach to protect myself!”
Hong also attempted to resolve the conflict by betting on the outcome of the case with Deliu, giving the details in yet another email.
“I invite [the barrister] to ride this case against me as the [plaintiffs’] counsel. We both agree to a contingent fee. The one who loses pays that contingent fee to the other party as agreed award of costs. [The barrister] and his…Chamber counsels do not charge the [plaintiffs] at all. No costs need to be sought. I nominate $30,000.00 plus GST.”
Finally, the Tribunal found that Hong wasted the Court’s time and resources through his actions.
“Mr Hong did not limit himself to trading verbal blows, but rather involved the professional body, and the Court. On his own account he has approached others to collect information and evidence against Mr Deliu.”
In what was termed a “reckless breach” of legal regulations, the Tribunal concluded that Hong’s actions were “reprehensible” and charged him of misconduct.
A half day penalty hearing has been scheduled for after September 30.