find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Legal Inhouse / Lawyer / Company Secretary
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Fantastic Company · Potential to be Part Time / Flexible Work Pattern
View details
Part Time Risk & Compliance Officer
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Brisbane City · Flexible Part Time Hours
View details
Vic solicitor handed 15-month suspension

Vic solicitor handed 15-month suspension

VCAT

A solicitor has been suspended from practising law for 15 months after claiming that Jewish people should not assist authorities in prosecuting other Jews.

Alex Lewenberg was found guilty by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) of two counts of professional misconduct in March for making statements that were prejudicial to or would diminish public confidence in the administration of justice. 

The 74-year-old made the comments in 2011 at the bail hearing of his client David Cyprus, Victorian Legal Services said in a statement. Cyprus was charged with and convicted of sexual offences against children from the Orthodox Jewish community. 

Victoria Police had been assisted in their prosecution by a member of that community, known in records as AVB.

According to testimony heard at VCAT, Mr Lewenberg said at the hearing that he was disappointed that “a person who has nothing to do with the case and being a fellow Jew does wilfully seek to hinder another Jew in his defence of criminal charges”.

VCAT heard Mr Lewenberg reiterated these comments in a recorded telephone call with AVB.

Mr Lewenberg told VCAT that his comments had been based on a misunderstanding that AVB had given police false information, but this submission was rejected.

VCAT acting president Judge Pamela Jenkins found Mr Lewenberg guilty of professional misconduct.

She held that Mr Lewenberg was aware of the “devastating impact” of his words on AVB’s personal and professional life and that he was “in effect endorsing community condemnation”.

VCAT was told AVB was subject to rumours in the community that he was a "maser", a term for a Jew who impermissibly co-operates with authorities to prosecute other Jews, and that he had suffered considerable distress.

Judge Jenkins said the administration of justice depends on participation and co-operation from members of the public.

“For the respondent, as a legal practitioner, to suggest that members of the Jewish community or indeed any community or religious affiliation, should close ranks and decline to assist in the prosecution of charges of this nature is truly shocking.”

VCAT found Mr Lewenberg failed to demonstrate genuine remorse and failed to respond to the regulator in a frank and meaningful way.

Judge Jenkins ordered Mr Lewenberg’s practising certificate be suspended for 15 months, starting from 1 June.

He was also ordered to undertake further training in legal ethics and professional responsibility, and pay the Legal Services Commissioner’s costs of $55,455.

Victorian Legal Services Commissioner Michael McGarvie welcomed the outcome.

“Mr Lewenberg’s endorsement of outmoded and inappropriate religious principles directly conflicted with his duties as an officer of the court and the strict ethical obligations and conduct rules all lawyers must adhere to,” Mr McGarvie said.

He also criticised Mr Lewenberg’s conduct during the case, including his allegations that Legal Services Commission officers were “anti-Jewish”.

“Continuing to deny wrongdoing and accusing investigators of improper motives, then finally apologising before the court, reveals a flawed understanding of a lawyer’s duty of candour and honest.”

Lawyers Weekly contacted Mr Lewenberg for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Vic solicitor handed 15-month suspension
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
06:04
LCA welcomes religious freedom panel
The Law Council of Australia says the establishment of a panel which will examine the human right to...
Law Society launched a new website, legal politics and lawmaking
06:00
Law Society launches project to engage young Aussies
The Law Society of NSW has launched a new website to engage young Australians in legal politics and ...
recognised for human rights work
06:00
LexisNexis executive recognised for human rights work
A LexisNexis executive has been announced as a finalist in a global awards program for women in busi...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...