Weekend wrap: Lawyers rally for an ‘extremely important’ access to justice issue

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Making news this week, lawyers were joined by churches and welfare agencies to rally against legal aid funding cuts; a Canberra lawyer was banned after misusing almost $50,000 in legal fees; and the Federal Circuit Court appointed a new judge.
 
Lawyers across the country rallied against legal aid funding cuts announced in the budget as part of a campaign launched by the Law Council, Legal Aid Matters. The campaign also drew support from a variety of church and welfare agencies including the Salvation Army, the Uniting Church and Jesuit Social Services.
 
Not only is legal aid an extremely important access to justice issue, but Law Council president Stuart Clark said not funding legal aid is not economically sensible.
 
“We believe that something like a $1 invested in legal aid represents up to a $6 return, in terms of economic savings through savings on healthcare costs, savings on people losing their jobs, people losing their homes,” he told the ABC.
 

A Canberra lawyer, whose name has been supressed, has been removed from the Supreme Court roll after admitting to misusing more than $47,000 of client money.
 
He admitted to the misconduct after two lawyers – to whom he sold his practice to in 2013 – filed a complaint with the ACT Law Society lawyers alleging that the lawyer had misappropriated $7,000 in legal fees, which should have been paid to the new business under the sales agreement. Instead, he directed clients to pay him into a personal account.
 
His legal team then submitted a document detailing 20 other payments, totalling $40,227, where the funds were misappropriated.
 

Finally, Justice Terence McGuire has been appointed to replace Justice Stuart Roberts as The Federal Circuit Court judge in northern Tasmania when he retires next month.
 
This announcement has come as a relief to family law practitioners, who were concerned that custody and child support court cases in the area could be delayed if Justice Roberts was not replaced, the ABC reported.
 
“We were very concerned that either there'd be no replacement or alternatively there would be a fly-in, fly-out judge, so to now learn that there's going to be a permanent appointment in Launceston and servicing the north-west is exactly what we were hoping to hear,” Tasmanian Law Society president Matthew Verney told the ABC.
 

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