Experienced litigator reprimanded for making baseless allegations
March 2, 2017
A senior associate of a Frankston law firm has been found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct after making baseless allegations in a family law matter.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that Ms Karen Low had been instructed to send a letter to her client’s estranged husband, who was self-represented in the proceedings.
In the letter Ms Low made a series of statements about the behaviour of the estranged husband; referring to his treatment of her client and his inappropriate involvement of their children in ‘adult themed issues’. While the statements were presented as established facts, they were actually allegations made by her client and were disputed by the husband.
The two most criticised paragraphs of Ms Low’s letter reproduced passages from a Family Court judgement, which was taken from the Australian Master Family Law Guide. The passage detailed a Judge’s comments about the possible extreme effects of a husband’s alleged behaviour on his children, including the potential for future contact with the police and the courts resulting in imprisonment. Ms Low amended the passage to include the names of her client’s children, thereby inferring that the alleged behaviour of her client’s husband would similarly affect their children.
VCAT found that Ms Low’s comments on the potential effects on the children were made without any foundation or basis.
VCAT determined that Ms Low’s conduct was incompetent and went beyond mere negligence in the circumstances, finding:
The allegations which were made without foundation in a potentially litigious matter were of a serious nature and resulted from an experienced litigation practitioner failing to examine or consider, in any substantive sense, beyond a brief reference in a text, the full context in which a Court’s findings and orders in a particular case were made.
Ms Low was found guilty of one charge of unsatisfactory professional conduct and was reprimanded. VCAT also ordered Ms Low pay the Commissioner’s costs.