Lawyer wins 'embarrassing scene' appeal

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 09:43 05/12/2012
Olinda Woodroffe
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
LEGAL CHALLENGE: Lawyer Olinda Woodroffe.

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A prominent Auckland lawyer has won a partial victory after she was fined for swearing at court staff and slamming a door.

Olinda Woodroffe - who acts in Samoa under her high chief title Leulua'iali'i - recently challenged the case before the Court of Appeal in Samoa.

Woodroffe has been prominent in New Zealand cases, including acting for the Thai tiler Sunan Siriwan who was caught up in the corruption case involving MP Taito Philip Field. 

She also acted for the family of Folole Muliaga who died after Mercury Energy cut off electricity to her life support machine by accident.

Woodroffe's Court of Appeal challenge related to events in 2008 when she was working in Samoa. 

She was said to have ''acted in an inappropriate manner'' when she argued over the size and colour of the paper to be used in court papers.

The Samoa Law Society laid two charges against her and the disciplinary tribunal found she had verbally abused a member of court staff in both Samoan and in English. 

The tribunal also found proven that Woodroffe ''showed no self restraint but created an embarrassing scene including the slamming of the Court Registry door''. She was fined NZ$524 and told to conduct herself better in future.

The Samoa Supreme Court rejected her appeal over the tribunal decision and she took it to the country's highest court, the Court of Appeal, which in its ruling said it was unacceptable that the law society's secretary, who laid the complaint then sat on the tribunal decision-making body.

The appeal court said there was a basic legal principle that no-one should be a judge in his or her own case.

Woodroffe's other grounds for appeal were dismissed. The court set aside the disciplinary tribunal's findings and ordered a rehearing of the charges with a freshly constituted committee.

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