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Client takes out ‘grievance’ with legal system on boutique firm

A woman with a “genuine” grievance about the legal system and its alleged role in her mother’s death has refused to pay a boutique firm more than $20,000 in legal fees.

user iconNaomi Neilson 31 January 2024 Big Law
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Dr Susan Scott has focused her grievances about the legal system and the death of her mother on South Australian incorporated legal practice, NIMLAW, by refusing to pay $20,312.98 in legal fees.

The dispute with the firm first came before the Federal Court in June 2023 for a bankruptcy notice, which Dr Scott has refused to pay.

During that hearing, the court was told that while Dr Scott refuses to settle the debt, she does not dispute NIMLAW’s competency.


At the time, Justice Natalie Charlesworth and the Federal Court dismissed Dr Scott’s submissions she did not owe NIMLAW as it was not the company she was indebted to and that an alleged caveat lodged on her property should have secured the debt owed.

In submissions for the bankruptcy hearing, Dr Scott first claimed she was the victim of a “series of injustices” in her dealing with the justice system, including how her mother was treated, her mother’s death, and the administration of her mother’s estate.

Justice Charlesworth acknowledged her grievances were “genuine”, in that “I understand Dr Scott to hold bona fide and to be pursuing on the basis of her understanding of the operation of the law”.

However, “the grievances to which Dr Scott refers are not grievances that affect the private rights and obligations as between her and the firm”, Justice Charlesworth concluded in her decision.

An appeal against Justice Charlesworth’s decision is ongoing.

In light of this, Dr Scott attempted to convince Justice Michael O’Bryan, also of the Federal Court, to stay the bankruptcy notice until a determination of the appeal but was unsuccessful.

Late last week, Dr Scott returned to the Federal Court seeking leave to appeal Justice O’Bryan’s decision.

In doing so, Dr Scott made “quite inappropriate” contentions that Justice O’Bryan’s expertise in bankruptcy “was not only superfluous but a source of bias” and accused him of making a “prejudgment”.

Dr Scott then made “generalised complaints of fraudulent conduct” by NIMLAW and asserted a cross-claim based on a wrongful act causing death, “apparently connected with Dr Scott’s deceased mother”.

This is in addition to various appeals to “the rule of law in South Australia”.

Justice Shaun McElwaine, who heard the matter, said Dr Scott failed to identify any error in Justice O’Bryan’s decision.

“Dr Scott’s written submissions range across many topics, including the lawfulness of the judgment debt and an appeal to an asserted ‘inherent power’ of this court under the ‘common law’ to set aside the judgment as irregularly or illegally entered.

“None of this makes any sense.

“More particularly, these contentions to not identify why Justice O’Bryan erred in his reasoning,” Justice McElwaine concluded.