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duty

Practitioners are reminded that, as officers of the court, we have a fundamental duty to be honest and courteous in all our dealings (in the course of legal practice).1

This extends to our interactions with clients, colleagues and, of course, the courts.

The courts have reportedly noticed some practitioners are being a little “less than truthful” with their reasons in requesting electronic or telephone appearances rather than appearing in person or are late/failing to turn up to court on the nominated day or at the listed time. Practitioners should remember that making any false or misleading statement to the court may be grounds for disciplinary action.

Practitioners also have a paramount duty to the court and the administration of justice.2

In Council of the New South Wales Bar Association v Lott, the practitioner made a false statement to the court as to when he was briefed to appear for the client as a reason for seeking leave and “in doing so failed to reach a standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public was entitled to expect of a reasonably competent Australian legal practitioner”.3 That practitioner was found to have engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct.4

Another practitioner was found to have misled the court in Legal Services Commissioner v Bevan5 when he failed to advise the court that he had advised his client not to attend the proceedings.

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At the time, the solicitor informed the court that his client could not be located and indicated that there had been an “onset of a sudden condition or injury requiring medical treatment”.6 It was held that he had intentionally misled the court and his conduct amounted to professional misconduct.7

Practitioners should be scrupulously honest when dealing with the court (and should not think the court can be easily deceived), and it is one area of legal practice where even a white lie is not tolerated.

Please see Guidance Statement No.25 – Professional Standards when Appearing in Court remotely and Guidance Statement No.31 – Courtesy in communications.

Footnotes
1 Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2012 (Qld) r4.1.2.
2 Ibid r3.
3 Council of the New South Wales Bar Association v Lott [2018] NSWCATOD 99, [37].
4 Ibid.
5 [2015] QCAT 290.
6 Legal Services Commissioner v Bevan [2015] QCAT 290, [7].
7 Ibid [16].

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