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Lawyer applauded for 'contempt' in not fronting up to Tribunal

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  • Sympathy for Hart's no show at hearing

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    Sympathy was expressed today for high-profile defence lawyer Barry Hart who failed to front up to his own disciplinary hearing. Several members of the New Zealand Justice forum and the legal proffession cited Mr Hart's poor health and the disparity in his treatment by comparing his case to others, where fees described by the Court as "grossly excessive have resulted in no penalty from the Law Society for the lawyer concerned.

    Last year, the Financial Markets Authority backed off from an investigation into former All Black & lawyer Jock Hobbs because of his deteriorating health. Mr Hobbs, who died on March 6 2012, was a director of Strategic Finance which was one of this country’s largest finance company failures when it was placed in moratorium in 2008, owing about $400 million to 13,000 investors.

    In another case involving an allegation of excessive costs, the Wellington High Court slashed fees charged by Auckland lawyer Herb Romaniuk, labeling them “grossly excessive” for the” very limited role” he played in a family protection case. Justice Forrest Miller cut Mr Romaniuk’s bill of $19,473.12 to a flat $3,000, saying a reasonable fee in the case “could not exceed $3,000.

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    When a complaint was brought against Mr Romanuik, the law society dismmissed it, but now Mr Hart faces four charges brought by the Law Society's Standards Committee for charging a family "grossly excessive" legal fees of $35,000 in late 2008. He is also alleged to have refused to disclose a file to the Standards Committee and to have employed a private investigator without telling him that his bill would be paid only if legal aid was granted.
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    Mr Hart is being pursued for relatively minor amounts when you consider that the Wellington District Law Society refused to take disciplinary action when Wellington lawyer Roger Chapman and his firm of Johnston Lawrence charged an estate over $250,000 in costs incurred bankrupting a benificiary of an estate he held in trust. In that case, the Law Society approved the non disclosure of financial records and condoned Mr Chapmans conduct, which included taking fees by deduction for costs incurred responding to complaints about him.
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