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Magistrate blasts duelling lawyers

Magistrate blasts duelling lawyers

An unimpressed magistrate has blasted lawyers from Atanaskovic Hartnell (AH) and Chang, Pistilli & Simmons (CPS) - who were opponents in civil proceedings - for wasting time, money and…

An unimpressed magistrate has blasted lawyers from Atanaskovic Hartnell (AH) and Chang, Pistilli & Simmons (CPS) - who were opponents in civil proceedings - for wasting time, money and effort.

In a judgment handed down in February this year, magistrate Daphne Kok said the civil proceedings, which commenced in the Supreme Court and concluded in the local court, involved "too many lawyers" who roused "too much heat and emotion."

The local court matter involved a claim brought by CPS lawyers for around $30,000 in fees owed after leaving AH to form their own firm.

In her eventual dismissal of CPS' claim, Kok was scathing in her assessment of both parties, saying: "There has been too much distrust. There has been too little courtesy and comity ... Far too much time and money has been spent."

John Atanaskovic, founding partner of AH, responded to Kok's comments by defending AH's conduct prior to and during the course of the hearing.

"At the hearing of the costs issue [which has yet to be dealt with] it will become clear that, contrary to what Magistrate Kok said ... AH tried constantly to have the case simplified and abbreviated, and for the matter to be settled without a hearing," he said.

Atanaskovic provided Lawyers Weekly with a letter, dated 26 February 2009, addressed to CPS's lawyers, Clayton Utz, in which a Calderbank offer to settle the matter out of court is made.

Settlement did not eventuate and the matter was heard, resulting in the accumulation of legal costs far greater than the actual amount claimed by CPS.

Atanaskovic added he believes it likely, once Kok becomes aware of AH's efforts to settle the matter out of court, that she will award AH an indemnity costs order requiring CPS to pay 100 per cent of AH's legal costs.

Mark Pistilli of CPS told Lawyers Weekly it was not appropriate for CPS to comment on the matter as it is still before the court.

The issue of costs remains to be resolved, as does the possibility of an appeal against Kok's decision.

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