Managing Partner Declares War on Opposing Counsel - by Tristam Price

A gnarly case that we’ve reported on before, RPW v H, is in the Court of Appeal for Judicial Review.

RPW’s counsel Sam Hood, Managing Partner of Norris Ward McKinnon, recently interviewed with and said:

(Q: What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?)

A: “Tough question. At the risk of succumbing to recency bias, a case involving the enforcement of remedies against an employment advocate (now in the Court of Appeal) has taught me a lot about human nature.”

We have no idea what Mr Hood learned about human nature, but on a technical level we fully understand why RPW v H would be the most memorable in a lawyer’s 17 year career.

It’s bruising; Sam Hood from Norris Ward McKinnon and opposing counsel Caroline Sawyer of Hutt Law went at each other. Dr Sawyer had criticised Mr Hood for not having a legal basis to his case and reported him for serious misconduct and Mr Hood, having previously served on the Standards Committee, complained about her complaint.

But Dr Sawyer was not acting for an employee or ex-employee. She was acting for an employment advocate whose own client is a former employee of a Waikato rest home. The identities of the parties are unimportant. What is important is whether or not the terms of a settlement agreement bind everyone (advocates, employees’ friends and whanau, the media, you, me, your pets, whatever). Mr Hood says it does and Dr Sawyer says it doesn’t. We’ll find out in the coming months when Justice Cooper makes his decision.

In March 2019 the advocate, Allan Halse, and his company Culturesafe NZ Ltd were ordered to pay $26,400 each – a total of $52,800 plus costs - for criticising RPW. Culturesafe’s client’s had given an undertaking that she personally would not criticise RPW under the terms of the mediated settlement agreement.

The Employment Court sided with Mr Hood and upheld the penalty. Judge Perkins (in my lay opinion) insulted Dr Sawyer in his September 2020 decision in relation to her being critical of the legality of an apportionment of the penalty to Mr Hood personally.

That insult appears to have emboldened Mr Hood to report Dr Sawyer to the Law Society for raising illegal conduct in a court. As to the merits of Mr Hood’s and Dr Sawyer’s complaints against each other, I now refer our readers to my November 2020 affidavit below.

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