29 March 2018

The Gresham Brief and Contempt

'The Runaway Judge: John Grisham's Appearance in Judicial Opinions' by Nicholas Mignanelli in (2018) 48(3) University of Memphis Law Review comments
Each year, countless scholars publish articles in law reviews across the country hoping to have some impact on the way courts interpret and apply the law. To have one’s labors approvingly cited or discussed by a court is one of the highest compliments a legal scholar can receive. Thus, it is the height of irony that judicial opinions have discussed or alluded to the works of novelist John Grisham — an attorney who has never authored a law review article — over two dozen times. 
This study begins with an explanation of methodology and an annotated bibliography of the results. Next, the author discusses the various ways that courts have used Grisham’s works, categorizing each case according to its function. The author concludes with further speculation about why judges are drawn to Grisham’s novels.
In Victoria a solicitor has been reprimanded by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after being found guilty of contempt of Court.

The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner told VCAT that in South Yarra solicitor Michael Wit, had sent an email that the Supreme Court of Victoria found likely to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. The email sent by Witt to his client and some members of the client’s family referred to orders made by  Justice Kyrou of the Supreme Court. Those orders restrained Witt’s client and two of his sons, both  overseas, from taking steps to transfer ownership of particular properties.

 VCAT heard that Witt’s email explained that the Court order could be circumvented and the properties transferred by his client’s sons, if the sons did not know the orders had been made. Witt wrote:
 In the new case the Judge made orders against [the sons] restraining them from trying to progress the transfers … I have deliberately left [the sons] off this email as I do not want it to be able to be said that they had any notice or knowledge of the orders made against them because for so long as they do not have notice of this then they cannot be in contempt if they do not comply. I therefore strongly advise that no one tells [the sons] anything about this new case other than to warn them to look out for process servers in Prague.
VCAT heard that the Supreme Court in The Queen v Witt (No 2) [2016] VSC 142 had found Mr Witt guilty of contempt of Court, that he had been fined $25,000 and ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ costs of $127,525 on top of his own legal fees of $369,855. See also The Queen v Witt (Costs Ruling) [2016] VSC 169.

Witt pleaded guilty to a charge of professional misconduct brought by the Commissioner for his substantial failure to reach or maintain a reasonable standard of competence and diligence.

 In assessing the penalty, VCAT took into account the results of the civil contempt proceedings and the fact that the Victorian Legal Services Board had restricted Mr Witt’s practising certificate to allow him to practise only as an employee solicitor from 12 September 2016 to 30 June 2017. VCAT reprimanded Mr Witt and ordered him to pay the Commissioner’s costs of $10,000.