Goodbye job applications, hello dream career
Seize control of your career and design the future you deserve with LW career

‘No order short of strike-off would be appropriate’

Despite a “lengthy and commendable history” in law, a South Australia-based lawyer with an “extensive history of disciplinary proceedings” is set to be struck from the roll of solicitors.

user iconReporter 08 August 2022 The Bar
‘No order short of strike-off would be appropriate’
expand image

The Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia (SASCFC) has ordered that George Mancini, who was admitted to practice in 1978, be removed from the roll of practitioners.

History of findings

Mr Mancini has, as detailed by the Full Court, an “extensive history of disciplinary proceedings”, dating back to 1990.

 
 

In that year, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for lying to a client. Two years later, he was found guilty on four counts of unprofessional conduct involving delay, lack of communication and one breach of an undertaking. In 1995, he was again found guilty of unprofessional conduct due to a lack of communication. In these instances, Mr Mancini was admonished.

In 2011, he was found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct for failing to complete work and a lack of communication, for which he was reprimanded. In late 2013, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for misleading a psychologist and failing to pay him.

In 2014, Mr Mancini was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for failing to pay a personal costs order in Federal Court, for which he was ordered to be supervised for three years.

In 2018 and then again in 2019, Mr Mancini self-reported conduct breaches, for failing to record a trust transaction within five business days and overdrawing a client trust ledger, and failing to settle an application for judicial review within a known statutory deadline, respectively. For both of those instances of self-reported conduct, there were findings of unsatisfactory professional conduct.

Subject complaints and Full Court determinations

The subject of the hearing before the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court was convictions of seven counts of professional misconduct, and — as emphasised by the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner — “most of these involve explicit findings of dishonesty”.

In May 2016, nine counts of professional misconduct were brought against Mr Mancini, including five assertions of false and misleading representations to the Legal Services Commission in legal aid cases, and four assertions of claiming or attempting to claim fees from the LSC, which he allegedly knew, or should have known, he was not entitled to claim.

Following initial findings and then an appeal, he was ultimately found guilty of professional misconduct on seven of those nine counts, with the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal directing that a penalty be determined by the Full Court.

Mr Mancini’s affidavit, president Mark Livesey, Justice Tim Stanley and Justice Sam Doyle said, revealed a “lengthy and commendable history of involvement in professional activities and an evident, genuine desire to improve the administration of justice”, with former Supreme Court judge John Sulan QC writing that Mr Mancini has “always passionately represented his clients”.

In its consideration of the commissioner’s application, the Full Court noted that Mr Mancini could “justifiably point to a long career of public service” and genuine effort and interest in promoting the administration of justice for over 40 years.

Whilst there is strength, the Full Court said, in the submission that the professional misconduct occurred some time ago, during a defined period and in specific circumstances that no longer operate, “that must be weighed very carefully against the fact that the findings which have been made are very seriously adverse to the notion that trust and confidence can be reposed in the practitioner”.

“He has been found prepared to make brazenly dishonest statements to officers charged with disbursing public funding for legal aid,” it said.

The three justices said that Mr Mancini’s conduct “represented a gross departure from proper professional standards, and fell very substantially short of the standard of conduct to be expected from legal practitioners of good repute and competency”.

“It may be assumed that striking-off may appear to the practitioner harsh, given the short period of the offending conduct and the small sums involved. However, that conduct must be viewed in the broader context of the practitioner’s lengthy disciplinary history, his dealings with the Legal Services Commission and the warnings he received about his legal aid claims, and that he was at that time already under stringent supervision conditions imposed by this court,” the Full Court said.

“This court must act in the public interest, and so as to ensure that confidence continues to be reposed in the legal profession. In those circumstances, it must be concluded that the practitioner lacks the qualities, character and integrity which are essential to legal practice.

“No order short of strike-off would be appropriate.”

Accordingly, SASCFC ordered that Mr Mancini be struck off the roll and that he pay the commissioner’s costs.

The case citation is Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner v Mancini [2022] SASCFC 1.