The Northern Advocate

Lawyer, client cop serve from judge

Court rules filing in its current form was inappropri­ate

- Imran Ali

Ajudge in Northland stopped short of imposing sanctions against a lawyer for failing to follow court directions that led to poor pleadings and evidence filed against a trust composed of Māori landowners.

Māori Land Court Judge Te Kani Williams said he would not allow applicatio­ns to be used as fishing expedition­s in court or for unwarrante­d, frivolous or vexatious applicatio­ns to be made.

His scathing remarks against lawyer Chris Beaumont are contained in a matter where his client Hone Tana sought court directions against the trustees of Pukahakaha East 5B Ahu Whenua Trust, Graham Mahanga, Hana Maxwell, Joanne Walters, Taipari Munro and Valerie Timbers.

Judge Williams said the crux of Tana’s complaint was around the trust’s decision to purchase two blocks of land at Mahanga Rd in Pātaua South and Whakairior­a Maunga that he, through the Ngunguru Sandspit Protection Society, had been attempting to buy.

Tana alleged the trustees have failed to adhere to court directions to meet with the hapū iwi trust, the trust has used large sums of beneficial owners’ money to buy the land without calling a beneficiar­y hui, and they have engaged in fraudulent conduct.

He also alleged the trustees have acted in situations where there were conflicts of interest.

In reply, the trust’s position was that Tana’s applicatio­n should be dismissed due to serious defects in the pleadings, a failure to appropriat­ely identify breaches by the trust,

Judge Te Kani Williams

the inappropri­ate nature and allegation­s made in the applicatio­n and the lack of evidence to support the allegation­s against the trustees.

At a judicial conference, the court indicated Tana’s applicatio­n in its current form was inappropri­ate and that it was not the appropriat­e forum to raise many of the concerns Tana had with a number of people and entities named in his applicatio­n.

The court advised the parties it was not going to hear allegation­s surroundin­g inter-hapū disputes, or the lack of engagement by the trust with other bodies, as those allegation­s were not matters for this court to deal with.

The court gave Tana an opportunit­y to refile his applicatio­n or to submit a new one.

A new applicatio­n was filed three days late seeking a review of the trust. In response, the trust sought orders that no further applicatio­ns from Tana were to be filed without leave of the court, and that the current applicatio­n be struck out for abuse of process and failure to comply with court directions.

Judge Williams said Beaumont’s applicatio­n was not a substantia­l improvemen­t on the first one as it continued to raise matters the court specifical­ly did not have jurisdicti­on to deal with and would not be heard.

“There is nothing in the trust deed or order that restrains the trust from obtaining property and there is no legal obstructio­n to the trust purchasing the land,” he said.

Beaumont’s suggestion the failure to comply with timetablin­g orders was an “inconseque­ntial matter” was an extremely unwise submission, the judge said.

“A failure to comply with court orders is a serious matter which could result in the applicatio­n being summarily dismissed or costs orders being made against counsel for derelictio­n of duty to the court.”

Judge Williams said while he considered the involvemen­t of Beaumont had not assisted Tana and to a large degree has reinforced the poor pleadings and evidence filed, he did not consider proposing sanctions against the lawyer personally.

He ordered that any further applicatio­ns by Tana in relation to the Pukahakaha Trust should come to him for an assessment to establish their validity before the court may take any further steps.

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