The long-troubled Auckland District Law Society (ADLS) says it has stopped losing money, its books are in the black and voluntary membership has increased.

A 2013 deficit of $283,923 was turned around to a 2014 surplus of $270,313 - due, in part, CaseLoad has been reliably informed, to savings made from a free chocolate biscuit ban.

Latest ADLS financial statements show members funds totalled $12,976,364, down from $13,101,298 the previous year.

Total assets were shown as $13,450,798, down from $13,614,190 in 2013.

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Total operating revenue rose from $4.1 million to $4.9 million, principally as a result of rent increases and a membership recruitment drive in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand.

Rental income from the society's valuable Chancery Chambers headquarters in Auckland's CBD rose from $494,066 to $618,955, despite some vacant space.

Chancery Chambers was valued at $9,621,717, made up of land at $5,185,000 and buildings at $4,436,717.

Income from the membership levy rose from $339,389 to $527,259.

Salaries and wages rose from $1,470,062 to $1,765,103 - an increase of more than $390,000 in two years - but the president's honorarium was slashed from $117,667 to $96,000.

Members were so happy with the performance they re-elected Queen's Counsel Brian Keene for another year as president, a vote of confidence some observers say will help cement Keene's ambition to be a High Court judge.

A voluntary member benefit organisation - it has no regulatory or lawyer disciplinary functions anymore - ADLS now claims 3007 members, up on the 2645 reported last year.

By comparison, the Wellington-based New Zealand Law Society - which is the regulatory body of the profession and to which all practising lawyers must belong - has a membership of just over 12,500.

In response to law changes governing the profession, all stand-alone district law societies - except Auckland - amalgamated earlier with the NZ Law Society.

After long and bitter argument, Auckland chose to remain independent, mainly to preserve ownership of its multimillion-dollar assets and control of its monopoly on revenue-earning legal forms.

President Brian was full of praise for everyone who worked to achieve the latest result and promised more bumper years of collegial, professional development and practice assistance initiatives.

But not all past initiatives were well received.

News broke early last year of a management decree banning from the ADLS kitchen the free chocolate biscuits traditionally enjoyed by staff and lawyer-tenants. (CaseLoad April 4, 2014) Popular Macaroons, Squiggles and Toffee Pops were removed.

Tenant protest resulted in the brief appearance of a fruit basket amid talk of plain Vanilla Wines and Digestives.

How much the choccy bikkie ban contributed to the society's reversal of fortune has yet to be revealed.

Lawyer tenants also baulked at having to pay for meeting rooms that were previously free.

The meeting rooms were available, free, for several years because some of the offices rented by lawyers were not big enough or suitable to meet clients in.

The ADLS backed down, reduced the meeting room charges to ADLS members for advance bookings and made bookings free if made a day ahead for a vacant room.

As one lawyer put it at the time, that's a bit like finding you have leased a flash new office but have to pay extra to use the toilet or lift - and book a day ahead.

Footnote:
Many months ago ADLS president Brian Keene, just before he headed off to do something important in the Cook Islands, promised to buy CaseLoad a beer... That was many months ago...

More secret courts

There's a serious criminal case going through the higher courts at the moment that judges have banned the media from telling the public about.

But that hasn't stopped widespread chatter.

Court of Appeal judges not only have banned a significant judgment from publication but in a related follow-up move last week, Auckland High Court judge Graham Lang felt obliged to also order the removal from news websites of earlier stories about the interesting case.

The Court of Appeal judgment in question also has not been posted on the Justice Ministry's publicly-accessible website of judicial decisions.

Court of Appeal judges Forrie Miller, Paul Heath and Denis Clifford dealt with the matter by way of an appeal last November.

In December they produced a judgment, along with an order prohibiting publication of the judgment and the result in news media, the internet and on any publicly-available database. Publication in a law report or law digest was permitted.

CaseLoad and the general news media know what this case is about. So, too, might some members of the public. It has previously been widely publicised.

While CaseLoad has read the Court of Appeal judgment and is aware of what's involved, it is a puzzle as to why such blanket banning orders have been made and how effective they will be given the earlier public interest.

Had members of the public been present at the Court of Appeal hearing in November, they would also know what it is about and they would be able to talk freely among themselves and to friends about it.

Apart from it being difficult to remove everything from websites, ordering the removal of stories from news website does not change the fact the stories, and matters they reported, existed.

Interesting stuff, though, and it will be interesting - if it catches on - where it might end up... Observers have speculated that the case, and others similar, might touch on the "Googling Juror" phenomenon.

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, you're out of time

Colourful Palmerston North lawyer Jeremy James McGuire lost a last-ditch bid to be reinstated as a legal aid provider because he left it too late.

In a drawn-out affair, he was suspended from the legal aid gravy train after pleading guilty before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal to a charge of unsatisfactory conduct following a complaint from a legal aid client.

Jeremy's arrangements in dealing with the client, if implemented, would have resulted in him receiving fees directly from the client despite the client having been legally aided.

He was unsuccessful in proceedings against the client in which he tried to recover fees.

Jeremy argued various aspects of his case, all of which stem from his dealings with one client, through the High Court, Court of Appeal, and an earlier unsuccessful bid for a Supreme Court hearing.

Some aspects are still before the Court of Appeal.

But in this latest episode the Supreme Court, in refusing Jeremy leave to appeal his removal as a legal aid provider, ruled that various applications he was required to file in the Court of Appeal were out of time.

The court also regarded as "flimsy" Jeremy's challenge to Justice Rhys Harrison's participation at the Court of Appeal hearing - on the basis Justice Harrison made a complaint to the law society about Jeremy's conduct some 10 or 11 years ago.

To cap it off, Justices Sir Willie Young, Terence Arnold and Sir Mark O'Regan ordered Jeremy to pay $2500 costs to the Justice Ministry for its trouble.

"Perhaps this fellow should be thinking about a less bothersome career," said Our Man At The Bar, dusting off his vintage poppy.

"Eejit," said The Scunner.

Beneath the wig

A judge ponders news that five Court of Appeal judges are to hear appeals based on complaints from criminals that their lawyers were incompetent and not up to the job.

"What these lawyers haven't caught up with is that the criminal classes, languishing in pokey with little to do but listen to the likes of jailhouse litigant Arthur Taylor, et al, have found new ways of shoving it up the system ..."

"Accusing their lawyers of incompetency is just one way of tying the system up in knots for a few more years ... What a hoot!!!"

"And why stop at three??? They should sit where I am ... Confronted every day by a ham-fisted array of bumbling dunderheads who can barely tell their *rse from their elbow ... Is there no end to their zebra-suited braying nong-ness???"

But there's worse ... I hear a certain handsome QC, whose erudition has graced many a higher courtroom, has also been vilely accused of selling a client's defence short ... Just as well that hasn't got into the papers ... There's no telling where it might end..."

Next time

What a famous person says about CaseLoad... Can a properly directed jury be trusted???