Questions raised about Legal Professional Board of Tasmania process
Calls have been made for Tasmania’s legal complaints process to be more transparent after a client was denied access to her own case file.
Lawyers Weekly understands a Tasmanian woman, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the state’s Legal Professional Board to make a formal complaint about her lawyer.
The complaint was ultimately dismissed by the LPBT, which described it as a “borderline case”.
With only 21 days to launch an appeal, she sought a copy of the case file, but said she was denied.
LPBT chief executive officer Frank Ederle said the board’s process was as transparent as it could be within the legal limits.
“Both the complainant and the practitioner are entitled to certain documents, and we would always endeavour to ensure all parties have received the documents they are entitled to receive under the legislation,” he said.
“The board is conscious of protecting people’s privacy, it is important the complaints process isn’t used to secure documents people are not entitled to receive.”
According to the woman, denying a copy of the case file would go against the Legal Profession Act 2007, which states the board must “provide the complainant or practitioner with copies of any documents relating to the investigation” at their request.
“I asked for a copy of the investigation file from LPBT, but they said I could not have it because the case was finalised,” the woman said.
However Mr Ederle said that “if people contact my office, and have queries about documents, they always receive a very fulsome response in writing, I am not aware of any enquiries where they have not had that response.”
“If people feel aggrieved by the process, there’s also the option of writing to the Attorney-General’s office,” he said.
But the woman said she had sent “multiple emails” to Attorney-General Elise Archer about the LPBT process.
Ms Archer said on Wednesday it was “not appropriate to comment on any individual matter, or the board’s decision-making process”.
Lawyers Weekly understands that the board is also exempt from the state’s right to information laws, preventing complainants from seeking documents through that process.
If a complainant appeals a decision by the board, Mr Ederle said the court would generally order documents it deemed relevant to the case, and “the board would comply”.
This was one of two complaints the woman had made to the board about the same lawyer, but was denied files on both occasions.
The board also has time limits on when you can process a complaint.
With some exceptions, complaints to the board must be made within three years of a lawyer’s alleged misconduct, or the board is forced to dismiss the claim.