A lawyer has been fined $1,000 and reprimanded after allegedly becoming verbally abusive and making discriminatory remarks to a court official.
The unnamed lawyer has also been ordered to apologise to the court registrar in writing and pay $750 in costs.
According to the New Zealand Law Society
standards committee, the lawyer approached the court registrar and demanded for her matter to be called after an adjournment.
When told by the registrar that the demand cannot be done, the lawyer is said to have become “verbally abusive” to the registrar who is of South East Asian heritage.
The lawyer allegedly told the registrar to “go back to North Korea and work in a camp there.”
According to the lawyer, the registrar was unhelpful when approached because she needed help after she couldn’t locate her client when she came to court at 10am.
The registrar reportedly told the lawyer that the matter was due to be heard by the court at 11:45am, a time the lawyer said she was unavailable.
The lawyer claimed that the particular court often made schedule changes without notifying defence counsel.
She said, according to the Law Society, that “perhaps court staff who changed the dates and times of cases without letting defence counsel know might prefer to either apply for a job (or work in) a country that doesn't have defence counsel such as North Korea.”
The Law Society found that even if the lawyer’s account was true, the statement “in the presence of someone whose appearance could be seen as being of Asian descent, was still capable of being taken personally and considered to be discriminatory in its intent.”
The lawyer was found to have “failed to promote and maintain proper standards of professionalism in her dealings with the registrar and failed to treat her with respect.”