By PNG Echo.
A three-man bench of the Supreme Court today refused the application of Lawyers Tiffany Twivey and Sam Bonner to have their referral to the Law Society quashed and so the referral stands and will go ahead.
The decision to refuse the appeal was a majority decision (2:1) of Justices Makail and Sawong with Hartshorn dissenting.
The referral to the Law Society for disciplinary action was initiated by Justice Kirriwom and announced in court during the hearing of the case of the arrest warrant of Secretary of Treasury Dairi Vele and the replacement of two respondents without, what the learned Judge considered, sufficient notice. The complaint/order was later followed up by His Honour by letter to the Society.
Lawyers for Twivey and Bonner argued that the pair had not been accorded natural justice or procedural fairness by the court before the referral. They were given no opportunity to respond to the allegations.
Twivey and Bonner contended that, as such, the ensuing plethora of publicity in the mainstream and online press (that had only one side of the story to report -Kirriwom Js) had tarnished their reputations’ and impacted negatively on their standing in both the eyes of the public and their clients and they stood to lose personally, substantially and professionally.
The cases were not decided on any wrongodoing on the part of the two lawyers but on a procedural consideration of whether the referral was a court order or a complaint.
Two judges decided that the referral was not a court order and that they had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal and indeed may be usurping the role of the Society were they to.
It was considered that all the grievances of the lawyers could be aired when the Society considered the complaint.
Hartshorn’s dissent arose from the fact that he considered that the referral was a court order and he agreed that natural justice had not taken place and furthermore was of the opinion that, under the circumstances, if the complaint was subsequently heard by the Law Society, justice would not be served as the nature of the referral had already done the damage regardless of the eventual outcome. He wanted the case quashed.
So, in this matter, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea has passed the buck to the Law Society with but a single prick of conscience from the dissenting judge for the potential damage to reputations that has already been caused.
I guess it’s medical doctors not Judges that take the Hippocratic Oath – “First do no harm.”