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ACT Conflict of Interest - If Lawyer is Friends with Magistrate?

Discussion in 'Other/General Law Forum' started by littlehelpplease, 22 December 2014.

  1. littlehelpplease

    littlehelpplease Active Member

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    Totally theoretically if a lawyer/barrister acting against me acts as a mock magistrate in the law society and possibly runs in the circles of magistrates as friends etc. If I was paranoid that he may be friends with magistrates making decisions for or against me and there might be a conflict of interest, what can I do?
     
  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    You would need to have a lot more than simply a feeling or a suspicion that some friendship or association between a lawyer and a magistrate was impairing your access to justice. There are many relationships within the legal profession between lawyers and lawyers (who may act against each other quite often), or lawyers and judges or magistrates. Many lawyers and magistrates also sit on boards together and may socialise together, its not uncommon. However, simply mixing in the same circles or even close relationships does not prevent justice being carried out.

    Lawyers have fiduciary duties (extremely weighty responsibilities) to act in their client's best interests, and judges and magistrates are bound by duties to administer the law in a just and proper manner. In many cases there will be precedents they are required to follow so once the evidence is put before them by both parties there is limited leeway within which they can personally alter the legal outcome.

    If you really think there is something in it, I would contact the Law Society or Legal Services Commission in your state and ask them about your options.
     
  3. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi littlehelpplease,

    The legal profession is a fairly tight and small group of people. Lawyers practicing in family law, for instance, would have come across fellow family law lawyers and judges, in professional and social situations. This is just a fact of life. As such, it is not possible to find a lawyer who has no relationship, whether professional or social, with the judge. For this reason, knowing the judge is not a conflict of interest in itself according to the solicitor's guide and law society.

    If, however, the lawyer is best friends with the presiding judge, or the judge is the lawyer's family relation, then there may be grounds to dispute the appointment based on conflict of interest. However, note that in considering whether there is a conflict, the law society will balance this with the fundamental right of the client to choose their own legal representative.

    Lawyers owe a fiduciary duty to their client to act in the client's best interests, so far as it does not conflict with their duty to the court. As such, having a relationship with the judge (unless the judge is the lawyer's spouse or close family relation) in itself, will not necessarily jeopardise the clients/other side. Legal professionals know how to act professionally, and if they do not, there are heavy legal, professional and reputational consequences.

    However, if you still believe there is some conflict of interest at play that will likely adversely affect your case, you can complain to the Law Society.
     

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