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This section provides information for the community about the VLSB+C's views on current issues.

Statement on the sentencing of Dennis Wayne Jensen

Today Dennis Wayne Jensen was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months by the Supreme Court of Victoria, after he was earlier found guilty of contempt of court. Mr Jensen was also ordered to pay the Board’s costs. Mr Jensen had breached a 2018 Court injunction which banned him from undertaking legal work.

Mr Jensen is not a lawyer. He has never held any legal qualifications and his companies have never been registered as law practices. It is a criminal offence in Victoria for an unqualified person to undertake legal work, or falsely claim that they are qualified to engage in legal practice. Despite this, he has provided legal services to unsuspecting people on several occasions, including representing them in court.

In 2018 we obtained an injunction against Mr Jensen from offering any legal services to prevent him causing further harm to the public. Unfortunately, in 2020 he breached that injunction by providing unqualified legal advice to a man accused of a serious criminal offence. Acting in reliance on this advice led to the man breaching a court order, which resulted in a further criminal charge. We subsequently prosecuted Mr Jensen for contempt of court, and he was found guilty in August this year.

Mr Jensen’s conduct is one of the most serious examples of unqualified legal practice we have seen. We welcome today’s penalty as it sends a strong message to anyone thinking about following in Mr Jensen’s footsteps – fake lawyers face serious consequences.

If you are looking for legal help or are approached by someone offering legal services, we urge you to take the simple precaution of searching our Register of Lawyers to make sure you only deal with a qualified lawyer. No one else has the proper knowledge, skills and training to assist you.

Using a qualified lawyer also means we can help you if you are unhappy with your lawyer’s service.

People Shop Pty Ltd Trading as Erudite Legal

The Victorian Legal Services Board has appointed Mr Howard Rapke, Managing Partner of Holding Redlich, as Manager of the law practice People Shop Pty Ltd trading as Erudite Legal (“the Law Practice”). The appointment of Mr Rapke has been made under to Chapter 6 of Legal Profession Uniform Law. The appointment means that Mr Rapke now has operational control of the Law Practice.

Mr Rapke may now undertake a range of functions including transacting any urgent business of the Law Practice, performing work on client matters, charging and recovering costs and may wind up the Law Practice. Mr Rapke may also exclude persons from the Law Practice who have previously been associated with it.

The Board has appointed Mr Rapke as Manager as a result of concerns held by the Board about the manner in which the Law Practice was delivering legal services and failures to comply with the regulator's directions and its investigator’s requirements.

Mr Rapke’s appointment is for six months commencing on 20 August 2022.  

Quotes attributable to Victorian Legal Services Commissioner and Board CEO Fiona McLeay:

“The Victorian Legal Services Board is committed to the effective regulation of the legal profession and maintaining high standards in the profession for the purpose of protecting consumers of legal services. The Board has powers to intervene in law practices where it is satisfied that intervention is warranted and is entitled to recover the costs of intervention from the law practice concerned”.

Practising certificate of Paul Simon

30 June 2022

We advise that Mr Paul Simon does not currently hold a practising certificate and is therefore unable to engage in legal practice.

Supreme Court of Victoria decision on Mr Anthony Zita

24 June 2022

The Honourable Justice Dixon has handed down his decision in Anthony Zita (A Solicitor) today. Mr Zita was a solicitor named in the Banksia Securities Limited group proceeding.  The reasons state that Mr Zita has been suspended from practice until 1 July 2024. The Court has ordered that this will come into effect 14 days from today, to allow Mr Zita to consider his options in respect of the decision. After this, Mr Zita will be unable to engage in legal practice and will be prohibited from advertising, representing or implying that he is entitled to engage in legal practice.

We note that His Honour states at paragraph 108:

“I am comfortably satisfied that the findings made in the remitter judgment in respect of Mr Zita’s conduct show that he was unfit to work with judges and legal practitioners to ensure that justice is administered with integrity. Simply put, Mr Zita cannot be trusted to be fearlessly independent. He cannot be trusted to put the integrity of the administration of justice above all else, particularly personal or private interests. Plainly, that character trait – his vulnerability to complying with powerful authority figures – demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, an inability to recognise when independent judgment was, and is, necessary, and an incapacity to recognise when the proper administration of justice was being corrupted and how that consequence might have been, or can be, avoided by proper ethical conduct.”

His Honour also sates at paragraph 110:

“My finding that Mr Zita is presently unfit to practise because he lacks the character and trustworthiness necessary to discharge the responsibilities of legal practice, would ordinarily require that he be struck off. I do not extend that finding to a conclusion that he is permanently or indefinitely unfit to practise, which opens for consideration the submission put on Mr Zita’s behalf that suspension is the appropriate response.”

 

Statement regarding Ms Dominique Grubisa

22 June 0022

Ms Dominique Grubisa no longer holds a practising certificate in Victoria. She is therefore currently not entitled to engage in legal practice anywhere in Australia.

Ms Grubisa is also prohibited from advertising, representing or implying that she is entitled to engage in legal practice.

We are aware of the recent ASIC decision and recent media interest relating to Ms Grubisa and her various business entities, and we are currently considering what other regulatory action is necessary.

 

Appointment of a manager to the law practice trading as 'Dean's of Law'

18 May 2022

On 3 September 2021, the VLSB+C appointed Mr Howard Rapke of Holding Redlich as Manager of the law practice of Dean’s of Law Pty Ltd, trading as ‘Dean’s of Law’, and operated by Mr Dean Hadjina from premises at 326 Keilor Road, Airport West, Victoria.  The Manager was appointed to take over professional and operational responsibilities for the law practice until 6 June 2022, unless extended by the VLSB+C. 

The law practice office has been closed and the firm has ceased operating. The Manager is in the process of winding up the law practice.  As a result:

  • the Manager intends to close the email accounts effective from 27 May 2022; 
  • until 5 June 2022, queries about professional or operational matters concerning the law practice should be directed to the Manager at Howard.Rapke@holdingredlich.com; and
  • from 6 June 2022 onwards, all enquiries (including if you are attempting to locate documents/files once held by the law practice) should be directed to the VLSB+C on (03) 9679 8001 or via our consumer enquiry form which can be found at https://lsbc.vic.gov.au/consumers/consumer-enquiry-form.

Practising certificate of Elisa Berry

4 May 2022

We advise that Ms Elisa Berry does not currently hold a practising certificate and is therefore unable to engage in legal practice.

Update: Statement regarding referral of conduct of Findlay McRae

10 March 2022

We have now concluded our investigation into the matters referred to us by the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants regarding the conduct of the Executive Director of Legal Services at Victoria Police Findlay McRae.

Having conducted a thorough examination of these matters, we have determined Mr McRae’s conduct does not constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct and we will not be taking disciplinary action.

Update: Avant-Garde Logistics Solutions Pty Ltd trading as Apex Logistics Solutions (Apex Logistics) and its representatives, RM Legal Consultants, Law Innovation, New Edge Law, and/or Erudite Legal

10 January 2022

Further to our post dated 4 May 2021:

We had previously been notified about RM Legal Consultants, which as at May 2021 was not entitled to engage in legal practice, and Law Innovation. Law Innovation was not and is not currently registered with the VLSB+C.

Subsequently, RM Legal Consultants ceased operation and the VLSB+C has become aware that another law practice is acting for Apex Logistics, namely People Shop Pty Ltd trading as New Edge Law, and/or Erudite Legal.

Any complaints from people accessing services provided by Apex Logistics about the conduct of its legal representatives must and will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate provisions of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria).

We are concerned about legal work done in, or relating to, legal proceedings that have been commenced or threatened against consumers by Apex Logistics.

If you or someone you know has sustained a financial loss, or is presently in dispute with Apex Logistics, and Apex Logistics has:

  • sent you correspondence from solicitors;
  • threatened legal proceedings; or
  • commenced legal proceedings,

please contact us on 9679 8001 or via our consumer enquiry form.

Legal practitioners who represent clients in matters where the client does not have a sound basis for the proceedings (“cause of action”) or who behave in a manner which may bring the profession into disrepute, may be subject to disciplinary action or suspension or cancellation of their practising certificate.
 

In response to article, ‘Anti-vax lawyer asks supporters to stop calling for refunds’, which appeared in the December 16 print edition of The Age:

16 December 2021

When a Manager is appointed to a law practice, they take over control of funds held in the law practice trust account by operation of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria). The Manager is then legally obligated to only deal with the funds in accordance with the legislation and cannot release any funds without the proper records, evidence of entitlement and authority. The funds are therefore not being held unlawfully.

Hall & Wilcox (the manager of Ms Teffaha’s practice) are currently working with a forensic accountant, engaged by the Board, to reconcile the trust account. They have established a process whereby clients will be able to seek refunds of their money if they provide evidence in support of their claims. See website link: https://hallandwilcox.com.au/manager-advocate-me/

Avant-Garde Logistics Solutions Pty Ltd trading as Apex Logistics Solutions (Apex Logistics) and their representatives, RM Legal Consultants and Law Innovation

4 May, 2021

We are aware of concerns that have been expressed by consumers in relation to the conduct of Avant-Garde Logistics Solutions Pty Ltd trading as Apex Logistics Solutions (Apex Logistics) and their representatives, RM Legal Consultants and Law Innovation.

RM Legal Consultants have not employed any legal practitioners since 1 July 2020 and cannot engage in legal practice.

Law Innovation is not registered with the VLSB+C and cannot engage in legal practice.

It appears that legal practitioners from other entities may be acting for Apex Logistics.

We have received complaints from people accessing services provided by Apex Logistics about the conduct of their legal representatives. These complaints are being dealt with in accordance with the appropriate provisions of the Uniform Law.

We are concerned about legal work done relating to legal proceedings that have been commenced or threatened against consumers by Apex Logistics.

If you or someone you know has sustained a financial loss, or is presently in dispute with Apex Logistics, and Apex Logistics has:

  • sent you correspondence from solicitors;
  • threatened legal proceedings; or
  • commenced legal proceedings;

Please contact us on 9679 8001 or via our consumer enquiry form.

Legal practitioners who represent clients in matters where the client does not have a sound cause of action or who behave in a manner which may bring the profession into disrepute, may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension or cancellation of their practising certificate.

Serene Teffaha and Advocate Me

15 April, 2021

VLSB+C confirms that, from 15 April 2021, lawyer Serene Teffaha no longer has a practising certificate and cannot engage in legal practice. 

An independent Manager, Mr Jacob Uljans, has been appointed to take over professional and operational responsibilities for her law practice Advocate Me. This appointment is for 6 months, unless ceased or extended by the VLSB+C. 

Queries in relation to professional and operational matters concerning the law practice should be directed to the manager at manageradvocateme@hallandwilcox.com.au.

Statement regarding referral of conduct of Findlay McRae

30 November, 2020

In its Final Report, the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants has referred the conduct of the Executive Director of Legal Services at Victoria Police, Mr Findlay McRae, to the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) for consideration. The referral is made pursuant to section 44 of the Inquiries Act.

VLSB+C confirms communication between the Commissioner, the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, and our office has taken place. In line with section 462 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law, we will not make any further comment at this time.

Correspondence regarding Minter Ellison, DHHS and the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry

28 October, 2020

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner confirm receipt of correspondence from Mr Ed O’Donohue MP regarding Minter Ellison, DHHS and the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry. While the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry is underway it would be inappropriate to take action or comment further at this stage. However, we note that the findings of the Inquiry are due to be delivered shortly. After assessing those findings we will make a decision about whether to conduct an investigation into these matters.

If an investigation is commenced, we will not be able to make any further comment. 

Apology to Mr Neil Fairley and Karne Group Pty Ltd 

10 September, 2020

On page 13 of our 2018-19 Annual Report we refer to the prosecution of Victorian Legal Services Board vs Neil Fairley & Karne Group Pty Ltd. 

The report notes that we concluded 16 prosecutions for unqualified legal practice and then lists Mr Fairley & Karne Group as an example of a prosecution.

The report does not clarify that in the case of Mr Fairley & Karne Group the prosecution was unsuccessful and that, according to Magistrate Tan: 

  • Mr Fairley and Karne Group Pty Ltd had provided information in the normal course of running their business; and
  • We could not make out our allegation that they had breached section 10 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria) by engaging in legal practice without qualification.

We apologise for any distress the reference in our annual report may have caused Mr Fairley & Karne Group.  

Unfounded and vexatious allegations of corruption against VLSB+C by Mr Peter Mericka

02 September, 2020

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner are aware of allegations of corruption made against our office by Mr Peter Mericka. We consider these allegations to be unfounded and vexatious and have directed him to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman.

Practising certificates of Norman O'Bryan and Michael Symons

25 August, 2020

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner confirm that Norman O’Bryan and Michael Symons no longer have practising certificates and cannot engage in legal practice in Victoria.

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