Lawyer accused of threatening colleagues keeps career

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A lawyer alleged to have threatened his colleague with his dogs and the "sorry end of my stick" has been allowed to keep his career after a disciplinary tribunal found in his favour.

The alleged threatening language was part of a complaint before the Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal.

The decision - released today - said while part of the case was proven against Mr Hong, it did not justify removing him from the lawyers register.

"This was an unseemly dispute between two practitioners, involving complaint and cross-complaint. Mr Hong made an ill-considered response. It was intemperate because he had been angered by what he considered unfairness to him."

The five-member tribunal chaired by David Mackenzie - found that Mr Hong's behaviour was reactionary but not premeditated. 'We have accepted that there have been failures in acceptable standards in respect of some of the particulars, for the reasons noted, but we do not consider those failures reach the level required by the charge.

They are not failings which indicate that Mr Hong's is not fit to practice."

Mr Hong, an Auckland lawyer, told APNZ that "it is a very sad case for me".

He declined to comment further.

The tribunal heard last month that Mr Hong had been representing clients when they bought a home with water-tight issues.

He received a letter from lawyer Frank Deliu who was representing Mr Hong's former clients in 2010, informing him that he was being sued.

Mr Hong wrote back and said the legal action should be stopped.

He said if Mr Deliu didn't agree he would file a complaint with the Law Society, seek full costs and file a defamation action "... you ought to be aware such frivolous action against me will cause a loss of my good reputation and name."

Law Society lawyer Paul Collins told the tribunal Mr Hong used threats to try to stop the legal action, and he should not be allowed to continue to be a lawyer.

On another occasion, Mr Hong suggested to Mr Deliu that they both put up $30,000 to be awarded to the winner of the legal action.

That was described by Mr Collins as a "demeaning" wager.

In a later letter to the Law Society, Mr Hong addressed Mr Deliu's concerns that the former owned two rottweillers.

"One is a border collie and the other is a boxer (my loyal gals)," he wrote.

"Yes, Mr Deliu better be concerned about his safety should he attempt to approach my office or me (having been warned previously not to do so) ... But it should not be my two gals that he should beware of, it should be the sorry end of my stick!".

Mr Collins said the threat of setting his dogs on another lawyer and the implication of the stick showed Mr Hong could not "rise above the heat of conflict".

Mr Hong said he was looking after the interests of his former clients as he was required to do, and he was trying to help junior lawyers on the other side.

He asked the tribunal to remember that English was his third language and said they should consider his intent, not the words that he used.

Asked about the threats of physical violence, Mr Hong said he was concerned about the "mental status"of the lawyers on the other side.

"I would defend myself if I had to. I know a bit of kung fu."

- APNZ

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