The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has ordered that two lawyers be struck from the roll of Barristers and Solicitors.
On 28 November 2014 former Wellington barrister Christopher Skagen, who currently resides in the United States, was found guilty by the Tribunal of twelve charges of misconduct.
The charges related to three separate matters including misconducting himself while acting for two unrelated clients and failing to produce documents for the investigating Standards Committee.
While acting for his two clients, Skagen breached the intervention rule by not having a solicitor accept fees and taking them in advance without having them deposited in a solicitors trust account, as well as failing to act in a timely and competent manner.
The Tribunal reserved its decision in respect of costs and any orders relating to repaying money to his former clients.
New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore says the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act Rules 2008 clearly states the accepted practice for a barrister sole.
“A barrister sole cannot accept instructions to act for another person other than from an instructing lawyer who holds a practising certificate as a barrister and solicitor. A barrister sole is not a solicitor and cannot receive or hold money or other valuable property for or on behalf of another person,” he says.
The Tribunal also struck off former Auckland lawyer Ilaisaane Pome'e from the roll of Barristers and Solicitors.
Pome’e was found guilty of eight charges, including two charges of misconduct, on 1 December 2014.
She acted as counsel for her clients in Family Court proceedings and agreed to adopt their niece and make an application to Immigration New Zealand for a permit to allow the niece to remain in the country.
The former lawyer then failed to renew a temporary permit that was granted, which resulted in the niece being unlawfully in New Zealand.
Pome’e made false representations to her clients concerning the niece’s permit application and failed to respond to directions from the court. This led to adoption proceedings being struck out.
She made a further application to Immigration New Zealand for another permit without instructions and made false representations in support of that application.
In regards to this case, Law Society president Moore says it is unacceptable for lawyers to mislead clients and third parties.
“The overriding duty of a lawyer acting in litigation is to the court concerned. A lawyer must not act in a way that undermines the processes of a court.”