Tasmania's Chief Justice has described the actions of a Launceston lawyer as "disgraceful and dishonourable" before fining him $3000 for professional misconduct.
The Legal Profession Board of Tasmania took action against James C Kitto, contending he was guilty of professional misconduct for failing to pay costs to a complainant on time as directed by the Federal Circuit Court.
The Supreme Court found him guilty of the offence.
The court heard Kitto was representing a man in a Federal Circuit Court litigation on June 10, 2014, when he incorrectly told his client to attend a hearing in Burnie, when the hearing was in Launceston.
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Kitto also failed to inform the court that his client would represent himself.
When neither Kitto nor his client turned up to court, the judge ordered Kitto to personally pay $1250 in costs to the opposing party within 60 days.
Kitto claimed his client would pay the money, and in a letter to his client he listed the costs order "as if he expected his client to pay it".
When the deadline for payment passed, the complainant's solicitor informed Kitto that failure to pay could be reported to the Legal Profession Board, which Kitto replied was "without any merit whatsoever".
Kitto did not reply to a further attempt to receive the money, and on January 24, 2017, the complainant wrote to the Legal Profession Board.
Kitto requested an extension of time to make a submission to the Board, but he only offered a brief response that "the complainant ought to be dismissed" before the matter proceeded to investigation. He then provided a statutory declaration in which he continued to claim that his client would pay the costs.
In October, 2017, his client informed Kitto he would not be paying the costs, so Kitto paid the $1250 plus interest and enforcement fee to the complainant three years after the original order.
In his judgment on Thursdsay, Chief Justice Alan Blow said Kitto's actions were "a clear case of professional misconduct".
"Mr Kitto's conduct in relation to this matter from 2014 to 2018 says quite a lot about his standards of competence and diligence," he said.
"He repeatedly sought to fob off the Board's officers with requests for more time and ignorant suggestions that the complaint should be dismissed.
"For years he apparently did not understand that he should not have been looking to his client for the money to satisfy the costs order, even if the client was keen to pay the money."
The court heard this was the third time Kitto had been subject to disciplinary prosecution.
Kitto wrote letters of apology to the complainant and the Launceston registrar of the Federal Circuit Court on August 13 this year - three days before the matter appeared before the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Blow said Kitto's actions in forcing the woman to wait three years before payment was dishonourable.
"Mr Kitto's conduct was disgraceful conduct of a sort that tends to bring the whole of the legal profession into disrepute," he said.
Kitto was fined $3000.