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Australia Lawyer who challenged COVID-19 health orders fights unsatisfactory professional conduct finding

14:16  25 october  2021
14:16  25 october  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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A Sydney lawyer who unsuccessfully challenged the NSW COVID-19 vaccine mandate is fighting to overturn a finding that he engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct, after he suggested Victorians should avoid wearing masks and challenge the fines they receive in court.

Nathan Buckley, the principal of G&B Lawyers, has been a vocal critic of various public health orders on his firm's Facebook and Twitter pages, where he has solicited participants for class action lawsuits and secured more than $575,000 in donations.

On Monday, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told a complaint had been made about Mr Buckley's behaviour, with the Law Society of New South Wales making a finding in May this year that he had engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct.

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Mr Buckley is seeking for the tribunal to conduct an administrative review of this decision. The finding related to three posts on Facebook, including a post in July last year in which Mr Buckley offered "free legal advice to all Victorians".

"Don't wear a mask ... Every single one of you 6.359 million Victorians can challenge the fines in court," the post said. "The Victorian government won't fight you in court. It is far too expensive for them to do so."

Mr Buckley later removed the post and clarified that it had not been "an expression of law or the provision of legal advice", but merely "the expression of my own personal political beliefs".

On Monday, the Law Society's barrister Robert Pietriche told the tribunal that Mr Buckley had requested a wide range of documents as part of the administrative review, including all Law Society documents relating to the complaint against him.

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The Law Society opposed handing these documents over for several reasons, including that the request is "oppressively burdensome" and the documents have no relevance to the determination the tribunal must make.

Mr Pietriche said the complaint about Mr Buckley made specific reference to "individual social media posts" and communications by email to other lawyers, meaning the posts and emails themselves were all the tribunal needed to consider.

Mr Buckley's barrister Paul d'Assumpcao disagreed, arguing that all the documents considered by the Law Society must be scrutinised by the tribunal. He said it was not simply a matter of looking at particular posts that led to the disciplinary action being taken, but the "broader context".

"In short, I say the applicant is entitled to test his accuser," Mr d'Assumpcao said.

In recent days, Mr Buckley has separately been informed that the Law Society is proposing to cancel his practising certificate due to social media posts made by G&B Lawyers, including some made in the aftermath of the firm's unsuccessful challenge to the NSW public health orders restricting the activities of residents who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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On October 15, the day the vaccine mandate judgment was handed down, G&B Lawyers wrote on Facebook and Twitter: "Justice Beech-Jones today said that no one in NSW has any rights. No one has a right to bodily integrity. He basically said it is ok to kill anyone you like."

When a Twitter user responded to this, asking if it meant someone could cut the testicles off paedophiles, the G&B Lawyers account responded: "You're correct based on today's judgment. Go for it. Pedos have no rights."

Another Twitter user asked if the judgment gave them a green light to go on a "rampage" against people who have wronged them. G&B wrote: "Yeah. [Justice] Beech-Jones said no one has any rights in New South Wales. Do as you please."

The Law Society wrote to Mr Buckley on October 20, arguing the posts demonstrate that Mr Buckley is unable to fulfil the inherent requirements of an Australian legal practitioner. Mr Buckley was invited to respond to this contention in writing by November 5.

Mr Buckley posted the document on social media and launched a fundraiser, which has raised more than $17,000 for the fight to keep his practising certificate.

He wrote that the Law Society "want to silence me for pointing out the truth" that the health minister "can make public health orders sentencing unvaccinated people to their death".

The tribunal will make a decision on the documents at a later date.

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