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Lawyers' tribunal clears Donna Hall of allegations relating to Taupo Landcorp deal

Prominent Treaty of Waitangi lawyer Donna Hall has been cleared of a disciplinary charge by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

The charge stemmed from Ms Hall's involvement in a Taupo land deal. The Law Society's standards committee had alleged that between November 2006 and July 2007 she acted for the vendor, purchaser and lender without advising them of the potential conflict.

Further allegations suggested she did not urge the buyer and lender to seek independent advice and didn’t stop acting for either of them, when acting for them would likely disadvantage one or both of them.

Landcorp was looking to sell 7040 hectares in a multi-million dollar deal to various Maori interests through Hikuwai Hapu Lands Trust.

Maori leaders wanted the land to be returned to Maori via a Waitangi Tribunal settlement. Because this wasn’t guaranteed, they set up the trust so Landcorp could sell the ancestral land to one buyer and various Maori interests could sort out the parcels later.

The complex deal involved multiple parties, gathering a $5 million deposit and, ultimately, the sale. The law society’s standards committee alleged Ms Hall acted for multiple parties during certain part of the transaction.

Although the investigation and resulting charge were justified “on their face,” she was not shown to be in breach of rules referred to in the charges, the tribunal says in its decision.

The tribunal fixed the hearing cost at $43,750 to be paid by the New Zealand Law Society.

Queen’s counsel Helen Cull represented Ms Hall.

Wellington barrister Gary Turkington was the lawyer for the standards committee, which has 20 working days to appeal.

Comments and questions

The Law Society must appeal this decision if it has the interests of public confidence at heart.

D Hall is as treacherous as they come and I bet if her husband wasn't an ex-high court judge she would have been gone years ago....corruption at the highest levels.

The Law Society is an self governing body. What makes you think they have the interests of public confidence at heart?

One could always make contact with the self-governing, self-regulating and policing media industry body - the Press Council. You know – the flip-side to our democracy coin, who by virtue of the 4th Estate heritage, are charged with keeping elected / judicial officials honest by exposing their corruption and any attempts at dodgy dealings.

Surely the Press Council having imbedded EPMU union members proudly displayed on the front page of their website, wouldn’t mean a conflict of interest would it?

Surely it must be “legit” having a financier and funder of a political party imbedded into the very watch dog charged with keeping political parties honest?

It’s not like the MSM can get easily away with “cuddling” a corrupt, Left leaning Mayor instead of hard-hitting investigations about misappropriation of rate payer funds & time, dereliction of duty and insulting Maori by Mayoral actions in the Ngati Whatua room.

On the basis of the information this was a clear case of multiple conflicts of interest. Alas the Law Society like so many organisations in New Zealand turns a blind eye to conflicts of interest and in the process shows themselves up as lacking the will capacity and ability to adhere to the principles of good governance.

Whether or not any rules were actually broken any lawyer knows that this was clearly a conflict of interest. This is a direct challenge to ones integrity and as such clearly not what the profession requires or should be supporting.

Poor judgement all round.

Any suggestion that she has somehow been vindicated in her actions, and that it would be acceptable for her to do the same again, would be a nonsense. That brings into question the value of the Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Law Society brought the prosecution (through its Standards Committee). The Disciplinary Tribunal is an independent body that hears the charges and the defence and makes its own decision. Don't blame the Law Society for the Tribunal's decision. (And don't blame the Tribunal either, without reading the decision and considering the reasoning.)

How on earth did the Standards Committee slip up and let this go to a Tribunal? Everyone knows the Standards Committees are convened to get the lawyer out of trouble and to stop complaints going to any kind of hearing. How did this happen? I guess ultimately the Tribunal did the right thing and more lawyers were able to take a clip of the ticket along the way. Thank goodness New Zealand isn't a western style democracy or things could have been quite different.