August 17, 2014
No balance in Hirschfeld hounding
The New Zealand Law Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal has found a lack of balance in a Law Society standards’ committee’s pursuit of a prominent Maori lawyer.
The Tribunal ordered Charl Hirschfeld to pay back $1368 in legal aid he was over-paid because of mistakes in the invoices prepared by his office.
He was also ordered to pay $20,000 towards the costs of the Wellington Standards Committee, and just over $16,000 or half the cost of the tribunal hearing.
The tribunal rejected the committee’s request he be suspended as a lawyer for two years pay the whole $150,000 cost of its investigation, which was more than other more complex cases.
It agreed Mr Hirschfeld was overcharged by the committee, and he pleaded guilty to 12 lesser charges of negligence and as soon as he was given the option.
Mr Hirschfeld, who has had a 30-year career before the bar as well as acting for many treaty claimants, stopped taking legal aid cases and closed down his chambers when the charges were laid four years ago.
He had to sell his house to pay legal bills, and can only work part time after a stress induced heart attack in April.
The tribunal says the standards committee was acting on a complaint from the now defunct Legal Services Agency which came just after a damning report on legal aid by Dame Margaret Bazley, which made unsubstantiated claims that a small but significant number of very bad lawyers was brining the profession into disrepute.
It says Mr Hirschfeld is not in that category.
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