High profile Adelaide lawyer George Mancini has kept his right to practice law despite another set of “unprofessional conduct” findings against him.
Mancini, a former president of the Council for Civil Liberties, was suspended from practice for two months in a decision by the Legal Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal (LPDT) in April last year.
He appealed the decision.
While the Supreme Court was considering his appeal, it was notified of further findings against Mancini.
Mancini runs a solo practice, deriving most of his income and business from legal aid cases.
His rap sheet for unprofessional conduct over the past 25 years includes unpaid bills, misleading clients, serious delays, failure to file appeal notices and inappropriate dealings with trust monies.
On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the suspension imposed by the tribunal, instead applying a restriction on his practice that he work under the supervision of another lawyer for the next three years.
The Supreme Court decision reflected on Mancini’s long record of unprofessional conduct, including the following:
- In 1989, he misled a client. He advised the client that his worker’s compensation action had been struck out due to the client’s non-attendance at court. The true position was that the action had been struck out because the practitioner failed to attend at court. He was “admonished by letter”.
- In 1992, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct in respect of four matters, each involving the common allegation of serious delay and the lack of communication by the practitioner with his client.
- In 1995, he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct. He had failed to respond to repeated telephone calls from a client over a three month period and then had failed to make contact the client over a period of more than 12 months. He was “admonished by letter”.
- In 2011, he engaged in unsatisfactory conduct by failing to complete work for a client, failing to communicate adequately with the client and failing to promptly return papers upon termination of instructions. He was reprimanded.
In its assessment of current complaints and findings against Mancini, the three judges of the Full Court of the Supreme Court said the Legal Practitioner’s Complaints Tribunal was correct in its findings of “unprofessional and unsatisfactory conduct and that the practitioner had been admonished on a number of occasions”.
“The tribunal formed the impression that notwithstanding prior admonishments the practitioner’s attitude to his professional responsibilities was ‘cavalier’,” Judges Gray, Sulan and Bampton noted.
The complaint that led the tribunal to suspend Mancini related to non-payment of a psychologist who had worked on a client’s case and the finding that he misled the psychologist.
“He took no corrective action in attending to the payment of the psychologist’s accounts personally. He did not acknowledge his mistake. In relation to one matter he attempted to pass the blame to his client,” the tribunal concluded.
But there was more.
While the Supreme Court was considering Mancini’s appeal against the tribunal decision to suspend him in relation to the psychologist matter, another two complaints surfaced.
On 20 March 2014, Mancini was found guilty by the tribunal on two counts of unprofessional conduct.
That matter related to Mancini’s failure over 18 months to pay a costs order of the Federal Court.
On 24 March 2014, Mancini was found guilty of another three counts of unprofessional conduct.
In this case he had “failed between September 2010 and August 2012 to inform his client of the true situation concerning the client’s appeal, namely that a notice of appeal had not been filed and that the appeal would not proceed.”
“During the same period the practitioner failed to deal appropriately with trust monies in accordance with his statutory obligations and delayed unreasonably in making the client’s file available to a new solicitor,” the court file states.
With all these matters before it, the Supreme Court still lifted the suspension – replacing it with a supervision order.
“The public and the legal profession must understand the serious view the court takes of the practitioner’s unprofessional conduct,” the judges concluded.
“On balance, as discussed above, we consider that there would be little to be gained from suspension.
“We consider it appropriate to order that it be a condition of the practitioner’s entitlement to practise the profession of the law that he do so under supervision for a period of three years.”
The court had heard that Mancini was highly regarded for his contribution to the law.
The contribution included being:
- A member of the Law Society Criminal Law Committee since 1998.
- Coordinator of the Law Society’s Annual Criminal Law Conference.
- Involved in the Law Society’s Working Party relating to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Access to Justice.
- Co-recipient of the Law Society’s Brian Withers’ Award in 2005.
- A member of the Law Society Professional Advisory Development Committee.
- A reputation for carrying out pro bono work and a willingness to take on matters that other practitioners may not elect to do. He was described as being committed to the practice of the criminal law and the development of the profession in the area of criminal practice.
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