21 Mar 2018

Lawyer censured and fined over misconduct

8:20 am on 21 March 2018

An Auckland lawyer who asked a woman lawyer to bend over through a window has been censured and fined $10,000.

Stock photo

Stock photo Photo: 123RF

As well as the censure and the fine, John Revans Eichelbaum was ordered to pay $5000 in costs.

In a separate matter he was also censured and fined $10,000 in relation to a complaint laid by the woman who had sold the property in question.

In a recent summary decision, the Lawyers Standards Committee said Mr Eichelbaum's conduct was "of a serious nature" and at the higher end of the unsatisfactory conduct spectrum.

The lawyer who made the complaint - identified only as Ms B - had been Mr Eichelbaum's opposing counsel in a case involving undisclosed defects in a property.

On one occasion, Ms B told the committee Mr Eichelbaum had sworn at her and told her "there is no courtesy between us", when she told him what she intended to do in the next proceedings.

Further problems arose when Ms B requested to have an expert visit the property.

At the first proposed visit, Mr Eichelbaum had refused to allow Ms B and her building consultant to attend the site. Mr Eichelbaum had also made inappropriate remarks.

On a second proposed visit, he would not allow her and her expert to enter the site, unless she agreed to bend over through a window down to the skirting board level to sign a piece of wood, the committee's summary said.

Ms B said she reluctantly agreed to do so, so as not to waste time and money.

She said that it was clear she was not dressed appropriately to undertake such a manoeuvre and when she did it, she hurt her head.

Ms B said Mr Eichelbaum laughed after she signed the wood, the committee said.

There were also other instances of bullying arising out of an unrelated matter, where Ms B said Mr Eichelbaum had made and repeated a suggestion that she had assisted in a fraud or crime by making a false police complaint, despite her telling him that she had nothing to with the complaint, the committee said.

"Mr Eichelbaum's conduct towards the complainant lawyer, Ms B, was not an isolated incident, but persistently occurred over a lengthy period of time," it said.

In the case of the complaint laid by the woman who sold the property, the committee said Mr Eichelbaum displayed threatening, bullying, insulting behaviour towards a person he was pursuing court action against.

That behaviour continued for a five-year period, the committee said.

The committee was also critical because Mr Eichelbaum was acting as a lawyer for a company he was the director of in the court proceedings.