Hundreds of thousands of dollars of New Zealand Law Society members’ money have been pissed away in the last six years on a mission to rid its ranks of Auckland Barrister Dr Frank Deliu. Deliu is head of a large immigration law firm in
Auckland and a thorn among the placid legal fraternity roses of “I’m here on client’s instructions but I am in Your Honour’s hands” court submissions.
This week, that mission suffered a momentous setback when High Court Justice Raynor Asher – a renown former Law Society hack – considered he had little option but to grant Deliu Summary Judgment against the Law Society’s unprecedented High Court application to have him struck off as incompetent. But Asher J, to his credit, went further. His Honour ruled the Law Society’s action was an abuse of process. Whoa! These vanguards of the law and ‘Imitation Bar’ found guilty of ‘abusing process’. What happened?
Promoting from the rear of the herd and culling from the front is a long honoured tradition in the NZ legal system. Officers of the New Zealand Law Society in particular provide the perennial pool for appointments to the bench, notwithstanding the primary quality they bring is an abundance of free time spent volunteering to keep the keg full at the legal frat house. The judges and society officers might struggle at fairness or even intellectual debate but the brotherhood they share have provided pillars of justice stronger than granite.
All this begs the question of why Asher J not only ruled in Deliu’s favour but spat in the beer of his honour’s eventual successors. That answer is buried deep in the dust up that has Deliu and the legal establishment at war.
As always, there are two sides. There is the informed view. In the opposing corner is the John Q Lawyer public view. Reading case files is not a necessary component of the public lawyer view. This is a fortunate thing in a country where it often takes an act of God to access a public court file.
Informed view first: Dr Deliu interrupted a Society meeting six years ago when the Grand Poobah was speaking and two years later Justice Anthony Randerson asked the Law Society to ‘investigate’ Deliu for filing a Judicial Conduct Complaint against Justice Rhys Harrison. The Law Society has since failed in attempts to advance disciplinary action against Deliu. Because Randerson J is an impatient man, the Law Society felt compelled to overreach and file the unprecedented civil claim alleging Deliu is too incompetent to be a New Zealand Lawyer.
Public lawyer view: The Law Society’s Standard Committee is merely inept at prosecuting Deliu who clearly does not understand the first thing about New Zealand law and, in addition to tarnishing the institution, the Society’s ineptitude in prosecuting him encourages other lawyers to be as incompetent as Deliu.
Sadly, the true story does not capture the 10-second sound bite. “Beached whale”, “baby put in clothes dryer”, “bare breasted model” do. Even Stephen Franks, an intellectual lawyer and former ACT Party MP who runs a popular blog, could not be bothered looking at the file on Deliu when he reported earlier this year “the hilarious tangle Messrs Orlov and Deliu have managed to create in Auckland, as disciplinary procedures bog down in a mire of cross complaint and technical challenges” was a result of the Law Society not throwing the appropriate resources at them. Many lawyers followed the sheepdog.
The Law Society’s action relied on cases Deliu lost – commonly against their favoured sons – to support their claim he was one dangerous lawyer. The taste this would leave in the mouth of any ‘informed observer’ would be unpleasant but Asher J appeared more concerned that Deliu was prepared to take his case to the Supreme Court and United Nations if necessary.
In theory, dues paying members are entitled to know where their dues are spent. Not so with the Law Society. Even Deliu’s appeal to the Privacy Commissioner could not pry this lid off. We may never learn how deep this money pit runs but it has just gotten deeper very quickly. Asher J has invited Deliu to submit his claims for costs against the Law Society. According to custom, abuse of court process warrants indemnity (full) costs. Deliu bills out at $400 per hour.
Members pony up to the bar – your dues just went up.