The Otago Daily Times reports that Russell Mawhinney, who is also a Queenstown Lakes district councillor, was censured and ordered to pay a total of $16,319.50 in penalties and costs after admitting misconduct, says he "crossed the line" and was "not likely to do it again".
Preston Russell Law solicitor admitted the charge after a complaint by a former client about his "continuing failure to supply files to her", despite repeated requests.
Ultimately, Mr Mawhinney twice advised the woman by email he would supply the files provided she paid $80.50 to cover photocopying and postage and "immediately withdraw" the complaint.
It was the latter requirement which led to the charge of misconduct.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Mr Mawhinney said he acted for the woman in 2003 and did "a fair amount of work", for which he was not paid.
"And then she just disappeared off the face of the earth."
Mr Mawhinney said "five or six years later" the woman emailed and asked to uplift the documents. He replied and stated she could have the documents on payment of her outstanding account.
No further correspondence was received until about a year later, when another email from the woman was sent to Mr Mawhinney, again asking for the documents.
"She got the same reply.
"She took the complaint to the Law Society and by that time she'd gone bankrupt.
"I emailed her and said, 'You can have them, pay the photocopying and postage money and withdraw your complaint'.
"That was where I crossed the line and I regret that happening."
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal's decision, dated July 13, said Mr Mawhinney had attempted to "force his own client to end the disciplinary complaint process" and his actions had "the potential to subvert the [disciplinary] process".
The tribunal said there had been a "considerable lapse of judgement" by Mr Mawhinney, as well as "unacceptable treatment" of a client by imposing demands he was not entitled to and causing confusion for the client over her rights.
Mr Mawhinney said requiring the woman to withdraw her complaint was "not the done thing and that was the breach".
"The Law Society is within their rights to do what they did.
"I do think it was very harsh, but at the same time, I'm not likely to do it again."
Source: Otago Daily Times