Donna Hall yet to lodge appeal against tribunal ruling
Controversial lawyer Donna Hall is yet to appeal a decision that she has a case to answer for her conflict of interest in a three-way multimillion-dollar land deal.
Ms Hall’s mouthpiece, Helen Cull, QC, told NBR ONLINE she is “too busy” to confirm whether her client will appeal a decision that could see her unable to practice as a lawyer.
Two weeks ago, Ms Hall failed to have conflict of interest charges against her dismissed after the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal supported the New Zealand Law Society disciplinary charges that she acted for the vendor, purchaser and lender during the sale of North Island land in 2007.
Ms Cull made it clear during Ms Hall’s disciplinary that her client had “no case to answer”, and said she would appeal a decision by the tribunal which ruled otherwise.
But she was unwilling to confirm when she would be lodging an appeal.
“I am busy, I have something I need to get out,” she snapped when contacted for comment.
The Wellington High Court however, did confirm that as of Friday, no appeal had been lodged.
While the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 does not state how long a practitioner has to appeal a decision, it is believed Ms Cull would have 20 working days to do so.
Ms Hall may use the appeals process in order to stall disciplinary proceedings.
In its ruling, the tribunal stated that while an appeal process is open to her, the matter “will be progressed in a timely fashion”.
So far, Ms Hall has refused to provide a substantive affidavit responding to Law Society's case against her, but the tribunal will be keen to hear an explanation of her role in the complex land deal, which saw her rake in $300 000 in legal fees.
The Law society argues Ms Hall contravened the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006, and the Law Practitioners Act 1982, when she acted on behalf of both Tauhara Middle 15 Trust and Hikuwai Hapu Lands Trust in the sale of Tauhara North block near Taupo from Landcorp.
In addition, the tribunal was told Ms Hall also acted for Tauhara Middle 4A2A Trust, which provided an unsecured loan to Tauhara Middle 15 to help fund its $1 million contribution to the deal.
Ms Cull, who routinely sparred with Tribunal member Susan Hughes, QC, during last month’s hearing, said her client’s actions were not evidence of negligence or incompetence as the “long-term gains negated the short-term aspects of Ms Hall's actions”.
Ms Cull also refuted claims Ms Hall pushed for the deals so she could hang on to $300,000 in legal fees from the Hikuwai trust.
“In this case, the interests of the Tauhara and Hikuwai trusts were in common,” she said.
“The ultimate benefit has been obtained, as to their trusts and their beneficiaries, an acquisition of a valuable resource.”
She says the two parties' interests were not "opposed" or in direct conflict with each other and the deal had been profitable for beneficiaries because the rateable value of the land bought for $5m is now $8.01m.
The Disciplinary Tribunal, however, ruled that in any case where there is a potential conflict of interest, the practitioner should advise all clients involved of the potential conflict, they should advise clients to take independent advice and decline to act further for any party in the matter.