ISLC suspends Nasinu lawyer’s practising certificate

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A Nasinu lawyer has had her practising certificate suspended for six months for serious misconduct.

The Independent Services Legal Commission (ISLC) found Leena Goundar guilty of one count of professional misconduct following a trial last month.

Commissioner Justice Daniel Goundar said in April of 2019, the Chief Registrar had received a complaint against the practitioner by one of her clients.

He said the Chief Registrar brought the complaint to the attention of the practitioner and gave her 21 days to respond, which she failed to do.

Justice Goundar said Ms Goundar still did not provide a response after being given a further 14 days to do so.

The Commissioner said the consistent failure to respond to a complaint was deemed to be professional misconduct under the Legal Practitioners Act.

“The consistent failure to respond to a complaint within the statutory time frame by the legal practitioner is a serious misconduct. What makes the misconduct more serious is that the practitioner had been previously disciplined for a similar misconduct in 2015,” Justice Goundar said.

“For that misconduct, she was publicly reprimanded and fined $1500. Her licence to practice was not suspended because Commissioner (Paul) Madigan accepted her medical condition at that time was an exceptional circumstance.”

Justice Goundar said in this case, the practitioner had tried again to blame her ill-health for her failure to respond to the complaint against her, but she was unable to support her claim with medical evidence despite given an opportunity to do so.

“In 2019, the practitioner did not notify the Chief Registrar of any medical condition affecting her fitness to practice law.

“At all material times, she was medically fit to practice law. Her claim that she was unable to respond to the complaint due to ill-health was based on thin ground.

“I also note from the past cases that professional misconduct arising from a consistent failure to respond to complaints is the most prevalent misconduct committed by the lawyers in Fiji.

“Any sanction that is imposed on the practitioner must therefore reflect the principle of deterrence, both special and general.”

Justice Goundar said the practitioner had expressed little remorse for her misconduct.

He added her subjective circumstances had little mitigating value.

“The need for accountability outweighs the practitioner’s family and personal circumstances.

“I do not think monetary sanctions will adequately reflect the principle of deterrence in the circumstances of this case.

“In any event, I am unable to assess means to comply with monetary sanctions due to lack of information about the practitioner’s financial status.”

The lawyer’s practising certificate was suspended for six months with immediate effect from March 26 when the disciplinary sanction was issued.

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