A lawyer called a judge an “ignorant woman” in a 10-page memorandum filed to the Family Court and referred to it as a “vagina court” during a custody battle with his ex-wife.
The man has also accused the opposing counsel of committing perjury, defrauding the legal aid system, and said its employees were “feminist staff who had a bone to pick with men”.
The comments have landed him before a professional panel, and while he doesn’t have name suppression, NZME can’t name him because of Family Court restrictions.
In the memorandum, he said of the Family Court that “if you have a penis, then you will lose. The law … well, that doesn’t apply in the Family Court!”
“… the law is secondary to the vaginal operational protocol of the Family Court, and all practitioners associated with such appalling orders should hand in their practising certificates, as they do not stand for the law, rather they stand for gaming the system, which is not justice.”
The man, who was representing himself in Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings, said a Family Court judge had “incorrectly [interpreted] High Court precedent that a C-grade first-year law student would not have got wrong”.
He then said the judge and his ex-wife’s counsel had made mistakes that “an ignorant woman would make” and that the Family Court in general operated on a “vagina = win, penis = lose” basis.
His comments earned him a complaint to the Law Society which has taken him to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, where he’s facing charges of disgraceful conduct.
Today that tribunal heard evidence from the man, who said he was operating purely in a personal capacity in a closed court proceeding, out of the public’s eye, rather than in a professional capacity.
“You’ll have some idea about the horrific impacts [these] four years of litigation [have] had on me,” he said.
“I repeatedly tried to resolve my family matters with my ex-wife in the most constructive and agreeable and friendly manner possible.”
He admitted sending the memorandum, but apologised to the court shortly afterwards and told the tribunal today that he’d felt betrayed by the justice system.
“For me, it was a very frightening outcome in all of the circumstances, and I felt a degree of betrayal by the system.”
He said the court was heavily biased against him in a range of ways and he’d been effectively silenced in an emotionally charged proceeding where he was battling for custody of his children.
“I’ve reflected on all of the communications. My personal experiences have had so many instances [of] unfairness that I believe there are problems with the system.”
“There are plenty of women’s groups who claim the reverse,” a member of the tribunal said in response.
Today he accepted he could have expressed his views on how the court operated, and of the judge, in a different manner.
“I accept they were over the line, discourteous and crude,” he said.
“My frustrations were absolutely uncontainable to me at the time … I was extremely frustrated.
“I would describe it as a father at his wits’ end.”
However, his comments weren’t limited to the one memorandum, and in an email sent to the firm representing his wife, he said they were focused on destroying his life, were milking the legal aid system and “had a bone to pick with men”.
He then filed another memorandum to the Family Court where he denigrated that firm and the police. A different judge who was presiding over the case on that day suggested he desist from filing any further memoranda to the court.
Counsel for the Law Society’s standards committee Aaron Harvey said the man’s comments were highly inflammatory to people who were just trying to do their jobs.
“This demonstrated a complete lack of respect and courtesy for those involved,” Harvey said in his opening submissions.
“There’s a real concern with a legal practitioner conducting themselves in this way before the judiciary.”
The standards committee’s case focuses on the he was a practising lawyer at the time he wrote the memorandum, and even though he was representing himself, it was connected to regulated services and amounted to disgraceful conduct.
He said the man attempted to have the case thrown out on the basis that the firm who complained about his conduct to the Law Society referenced the memorandum he’d written to the court. Family Court documents are strictly controlled and access or reference to them requires the leave of the court.
However, the tribunal rejected his submission to have the case thrown out.
The man let his practising certificate lapse last year and is no longer a lawyer.
The tribunal reserved its decision on liability.
Jeremy Wilkinson is an Open Justice reporter based in Manawatū covering courts and justice issues with an interest in tribunals. He has been a journalist for nearly a decade and has worked for NZME since 2022.