15 Jul 2010

Comeskey suspended from law for nine months

7:45 pm on 15 July 2010

Controversial Auckland lawyer Chris Comeskey has been suspended from practising law for nine months after pleading guilty to three charges of professional misconduct.

Mr Comeskey, well-known for his involvement in negotiating the return of stolen war medals and for defending high-profile offenders like the convicted murderer Nai Yin Xue, pleaded guilty to the charges before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal earlier this month.

Those charges included misleading the Court of Appeal and overbilling the Legal Services Agency.

The Law Society wanted him struck off, saying he was a dishonest lawyer. But Mr Comeskey's lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, told the tribunal that his client had suffered enough and should be censured rather than struck off.

Mr Comeskey did not mislead the agency, he said, but simply has bad business and office management skills.

'Worried sick' over charges

Mr Comeskey apologised unreservedly to the tribunal, the Law Society and the legal profession for his conduct.

Judge Clarkson had said that she did not find an apology he made about a week ago sufficiently contrite, so Mr Comeskey apologised again, saying he had worried himself sick over the charges and how he would provide for his family if he was struck off.

He said he would be willing to take on a mentor and enact better office management practices.

Outside the court, Mr Fairbrother said his client - who was also ordered to pay the Law Society's costs of more than $40,000, and to reimburse the tribunal - was happy with the sentence and unlikely to appeal.

Law Society president Jonathan Temm told Checkpoint that while the society pushed to have Mr Comeskey struck off, the tribunal clearly considered all the matters put before it and the society accepts the decision.