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Court confirms jurisdiction to remove counsel but declines in this instance

11 Aug 2023

| Author: Hannah Hellyer

Civil procedure – unsuccessful application to remove counsel and solicitors for 19 respondents – court’s jurisdiction to disqualify counsel at the instance of an opposing party

Zhong v Li [2023] NZCA 300.

 

Xing Zhong applied to remove counsel and solicitors for 19 respondents, alleging conflict of interest, breach of professional standards, dishonesty, and vexatiousness.

The substantive proceeding concerned liability under a series of agreements for the sale and purchase of land. Following trial, Green Land Investment was found liable to the 19 respondents. The mortgagee sales of the lots by Zhong were found to be void.

 

Applicable principles: Whether the court has jurisdiction to disqualify counsel at the instance of an opposing party – whether counsel’s involvement risks injustice or brings the court’s processes into disrepute – whether Zhong’s allegations of conflict of interest, breach of professional standards, dishonesty and vexatiousness met high threshold for removal of counsel – whether they amount to extraordinary circumstances.

 

Held: Application to remove counsel and solicitors for 19 respondents declined.

The court has jurisdiction to disqualify counsel at the instance of an opposing party where their involvement risks injustice or brings the court’s processes into disrepute. However, it is sparingly exercised. No sufficient justification in this case; the application rested on unsupported allegations.

 

Hannah Hellyer is an Auckland criminal defence barrister and a member of the ADLS Criminal Law committee and Parole Law committee

 

Zhong v Li & Ors [2023] NZCA 300

Li & Ors v Green Land Investment Ltd & Ors [2022] NZHC 1906

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