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NZ Law Society limp on Fiji

  • May 25th, 2009

Not surprisingly the NZ Law Society is limp on the Fiji government’s siezure of control of the previously independent Fiji Law Society. Our Society is mumbling about the Fiji government’s intentions,  rather than the dangers of the control itselt.

There’s a simple and disgraceful explanation. The NZ government in 2006 took over control of lawyer registration and discipline in New Zealand.

So the NZLS can’t match Peter Williams QC’s claim that the Fiji legal system is now like that of Hitler’s Germany. Peter explained that the Fiji government will now control even the Society’s handling of complaints about lawyers by the government itself.  That’s been the case in NZ since the 2006 Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 came into effect last year. 

I’m proud that Phil Goff accused me in the House of personal responsibility for holding that legislation up. I believe I was largely the cause of 2 years delay. It was passed after I left Parliament.

To be fair to Phil he knew that it was a woeful piece of law. I believe he did not push it, because he too was worried about its poor design, and embarrassingly bad drafting.

But he got little help to improve it.  A feeble NZ Law Society leadership agreed to the loss of independence, despite saying privately they were worried by it. They ceded the independence of the profession because they saw it as the price for preserving some parts of the NZ lawyer monopoly over what the Act calls "reserved work".

So no wonder you can’t find any firm NZLS  statement on its website about the move in Fiji. This is not a criticism of the current President, John Marshall. He has to play the hand left him by his predecessors.

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