Council of the New South Wales Bar Association v Efa (a pseudonym) [2021] NSWCA 339 (21 December 2021) (Bathurst CJ, Leeming JA and Simpson AJA)


Catchwords:


ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – particular administrative bodies – New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal – Occupational Division – subject matter of power or decision – disciplinary decisions – legal practitioners – barristers – misconduct and discipline – professional misconduct – where respondent engaged in demeaning, humiliating and inexcusable conduct towards a female clerk at a dinner – where the Tribunal found that the respondent had not engaged in professional misconduct – whether the Tribunal erred in failing to find that the respondent’s conduct would justify a determination that the respondent was not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice – whether the Tribunal erred in its assessment of the seriousness of the respondent’s conduct by imposing only a formal reprimand

OCCUPATIONS – legal practitioners – barristers – misconduct and discipline – disciplinary proceedings – professional misconduct – where respondent is a practising barrister – respondent engaged in demeaning, humiliating and inexcusable conduct towards a female clerk at a dinner – New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that the respondent had engaged in “unsatisfactory professional conduct” – respondent alleged to have said the words “suck my dick” to the female clerk – where immediate verbal complaint made by female clerk to a colleague – where the events of the dinner were recorded by closed circuit television cameras – where the Court was in as good a position as the Tribunal to determine questions of fact – whether the respondent said to H the words “suck my dick”

OCCUPATIONS – legal practitioners – barristers – misconduct and discipline – professional misconduct – where professional misconduct is defined in s 297 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) – where that definition is expressed to be “inclusive” of the traditional definition of “professional misconduct”’ at common law – where the Court has inherent jurisdiction to supervise members of the legal profession in New South Wales – where the admission, suspension or removal of legal practitioners in exercise of that jurisdiction considers whether a person is a “fit and proper to engage in legal practice” – where the applicant contended that Allinson v General Council of Medical Education and Registration [1894] 1 QB 750 created a distinct category of “professional misconduct” at common law – whether there is a distinct category of professional misconduct at common law beyond that which is incorporated into s 297 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)

OCCUPATIONS – legal practitioners – barristers – misconduct and discipline – professional misconduct – where s 297 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) defines “professional misconduct” as including conduct “that would, if established, justify a finding that the lawyer is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice” – where conduct that would justify a finding of unfitness is not necessarily conduct that must result in such a finding – where unfitness is not measured by the objective circumstances of the conduct alone but also by consideration of character – whether the respondent’s conduct would justify a finding that he was not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice

OCCUPATIONS – legal practitioners – barristers – misconduct and discipline – professional misconduct – grounds for disciplinary orders – where respondent said the words “suck my dick” to a female clerk – where the respondent’s conduct and words warranted severe condemnation – where the Court has and will have no tolerance for conduct of legal practitioners that does not recognise and meet appropriate standards in respect of the treatment of women – where the objective of disciplinary orders is protective and not punitive – where the Tribunal found that the respondent’s conduct was an isolated instance of departure from accepted norms – where the respondent has suffered significant personal, emotional and financial cost as a result of his conduct – whether the Tribunal erred in its assessment of the seriousness of the respondent’s conduct by imposing only a formal reprimand

STATUTORY INTERPRETATION – definitions – “means” and “includes” – definition of “professional misconduct” in Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW), s 297 – where that section was intended to incorporate “the traditional common law definition” of professional misconduct