Former Wellington barrister Christopher Skagen has been charged with 12 offences of misconduct and ordered to pay $30,000 in costs and compensation, following an investigation by the Wellington Standards Committee of the New Zealand Law Society.
According to the New Zealand Herald, Skagen, who now lives in the United States, was charged with accepting fees in advance without placing them into a trust account, failing to act in a timely or competent manner and failing to permit an investigator to examine his practice accounts. The charges result from his conduct with two of his clients, dubbed Mr E and Mr W by the tribunal.
Judge Bernard Kendall, chairman, Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, said Skagen’s conduct was “disgraceful and dishonourable”.
"We agree with counsel's submission that it borders on cynical and intentional dishonesty that Mr Skagen, having concluded his conduct in respect to Mr E, went on to behave in a similar manner towards Mr W." Mr Kendall described Mr Skagen's conduct as sustained, cynical and dishonest,” he said.
Judge Kendall also said that the tribunal found the nature, gravity, number and this history of Skegen’s offences led the tribunal to find that he was not a fit and proper person to be practising law.
"We have no confidence that he will not behave in a similar manner in the future, the public is entitled to protection from him,” he said. “We therefore unanimously order that he be struck off the Roll of Barristers and Solicitors of New Zealand effective immediately.”
He has now been ordered to pay costs of $23,000 to the Law Society and compensation to both Mr E and Mr W.
Mr Skagen was recently suspended from practising law for 18 months by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, which found him guilty of similar charges.