The Queensland Legal Services Commissioner made an application in the state’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal alleging that Michelle Rosena Beatty had, on four occasions between August 2016 and June 2017, failed to respond to a written notice issued pursuant to section 443 of the Legal Profession Act 2007.
The legislative provision in question empowers the LSC to issue notices against practitioners who are the subject of an investigation.
At the time the first three notices were issued, QCAT noted that Ms Beatty – who was admitted to practice in 1998 – was the legal practitioner director at MRB Law Pty Ltd, and then at the time of issuance of the fourth notice, she was an employed solicitor at Virtual Legal.
In February 2017, she consented to numerous conditions being placed on her practising certificate, including that she be on a restricted certificate and undergo, at the Law Society’s direction, a health assessment of her fitness to practice with a nominated psychiatrist. she ceased employment with Virtual Legal in June 2017, did not renew her practising certificate and has not practiced as a solicitor since that time.
QCAT espoused that a fundamental incident of the privilege of legal practice is an obligation to obey the law.
“That includes the statutory requirements of the legislation by virtue of which a practitioner has the rights and privileges of practice, in this case the LPA. By her repeated conduct in failing to respond to the applicant’s notices under section 443, the respondent displayed what can only be described as a profound indifference to her legal obligations under the LPA,” the tribunal noted.
“When one sees that in combination with the subsequent history of the respondent’s non-renewal of her practicing certificate, and her complete lack of engagement in the current discipline proceeding, the only sensible inference available is that the respondent is indifferent to her status as a member of the legal profession.”
The tribunal was satisfied, ultimately, that the “level of indifference demonstrated” by Ms Beatty in her repeated failure to comply with the notices given under section 443 amply warrant a finding that, in each case, she engaged in professional misconduct.
The privilege of membership of the legal profession affords a person significant benefits, both professional and personal, the tribunal mused.
“The corollary of course, is that for those benefits there are serious responsibilities and obligations,” it added.
“It is regrettably the case that [Ms Beatty], by her conduct in failing repeatedly to respond to the section 443 notices, and indeed, by her lack of engagement in this disciplinary process, has manifested what I would describe as profound indifference to her status as a member of the legal profession.”
“The public needs to have confidence that the people who hold the privilege of the rank of legal practitioner for service of the community are people who understand and abide by the obligations that are imposed on them by law.”
As such, the tribunal ordered that her name be removed from the roll, and that she pay the LSC’s costs.