After breaching the terms of a three-year suspension, a Cook Islands lawyer, Normann George has been banned indefinitely from appearing in the national Land Court.
George was suspended from the court in September 2013 after Chief Justice Tom Weston found in favour of five complaints made against the local law practitioner. The Court of Appeal also imposed an additional 18-month suspension at the time.
The complaints were about George’s conduct as a lawyer with CJ Weston remarking that they showed a “pattern of conduct”.
After the suspension was given, George allegedly made an appearance in the Land Court in February this year before JP John Kenning. A land agent then made a complaint to CJ Weston.
In a response to the allegations, George said an emergency had developed and his client had asked him to “take steps” on a pro bono basis. Additionally, he claimed he had sought leave to appear at the commencement of the hearing.
JP Kenning, the deputy registrar and the complainant stated that George failed to seek leave with all statements being accepted by Brian Mason, George’s lawyer. Mason also acknowledged in a hearing before CJ Weston that JP Kenning did not have the authority to allow George’s appearance and thus disregard directions given by the Chief Justice.
However, Mason suggested that having George’s name struck off the roll was too severe.
“I believe the appropriate penalty for an instance such as that occurring here would be suspension but there is doubt as to whether under the current Act, such a right of suspension exists,” CJ Weston stated. “Therefore, I need to select from a lesser penalty than might otherwise be appropriate.”
“I now limit your practice. You may never appear in the Land Division again. The one exception to this is if you are to appear either personally or on behalf of your wife in any matter. Other than that, though, you may not appear in the Land Division again.”
Had George complied with the terms of the initial suspension, he would have been permitted to appear in the Land Court in September 2016.
By Miklos Bolza