CONVEYANCING LAWYERS in Victoria felt the force of the Supreme Court’s damning refusal last week to order an injunction against Lydia Maric, sought by the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).
Justice Robert Osborn ruled in favour of Maric, stating that conveyancers do not, as a rule, give legal advice to clients in the process of completing a s 32 statement. In reaching this judgment, Justice Osborn slammed the LIV for failing in its duty to inform the court that, as of December 2005, it no longer had the authority to prosecute the case.
The problem arose when the Legal Services Board (LSB) took over the responsibility for regulating the profession last year. The LIV had claimed authority had been delegated to it by the LSB, and proceeded on that basis. Yet Justice Osborn said that “the failure to alert the court of the change to the legislation was unfortunate given the history of the dispute”.
The LIV had brought the case against Maric as the result of a complaint from a country solicitor, that the preparation of a s 32 statement by a conveyancer breached s 314 of the Legal Practice Act 1996. After the Legal Practice Board refused to act against Maric, the LIV sought an injunction under s 316 of the same Act, despite the fact that it had lost its authority to do so.
Justice Osborn said the LIV had been “derelict in failing to apprise the court” of the loss of its power to prosecute.
“I just, frankly, find it extraordinary that the [LIV] did not have the courtesy to say to the court that, just before Christmas, a new Act was passed,” his Honour said.