Thursday, November 19, 2020
It is unusual to see a reciprocal discipline matter predicated on a sanction imposed by a non-U.S. jurisdiction.
The Oregon Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney who was sanctioned by the High Court of New Zealand Wellington Registry.
The attorney attended law school in New Zealand and was admitted in Oregon in 1991.
The attorney was "struck" from the roll of attorneys in August 2016 for misconduct in two client matters.
He had a "significant disciplinary history" that included an 18-month original suspension in Oregon for 22 trust account violations involving 20 clients.
He had emigrated to New Zealand during the pendency of that matter. He returned to Oregon during the pendency of the New Zealand bar proceedings.
The court here rejected a number of contentions raised by the attorney. First, the court held that New Zealand was a "jurisdiction" for reciprocal discipline purposes.
The charges were not vague
respondent argues that the New Zealand Rules of Professional Conduct are unduly vague insofar as, for example, they permit discipline on a finding of misconduct, which is defined as conduct “that would reasonably be regarded by lawyers of good standing as disgraceful or dishonourable.” NZLCA 2006 § 7(1)(a)(i). Respondent’s argument ignores the fact that the High Court found that respondent committed six violations of the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Act, involving three separate and specific provisions of that law, which the High Court quoted and discussed in its opinion, and it imposed discipline on that basis. Therefore, the fact that the New Zealand disciplinary rules include some terms that, on their face, may appear vague, does not persuade us that, as a whole, the New Zealand attorney discipline system does not provide lawyers with notice of what is expected.
Nor he had been deprived of due process or show that his reciprocal disbarment would amount to a "grave injustice." (Mike Frisch)