Costs News

03 October 2019
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CLSB: Costs Lawyer disciplinary hearings should be held in public

Disciplinary hearings involving Costs Lawyers will generally be held in public in future, under proposals released by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB).

A consultation on its disciplinary rules and procedures (DR&P) also includes the power to make interim suspension orders.

The review of the DR&P – which were last updated in 2013 – forms part of the improvement plan set by the Legal Services Board following its assessment of the regulator’s performance.

The CLSB said the proposed reforms would not fundamentally change its approach to enforcement. “Rather, the new DR&P seek to clarify, streamline and improve our existing processes.”

Conduct committee hearings convened by the CLSB have historically been held in private. The consultation said: “This no longer reflects the practice of other regulators and could give rise to concerns about transparency and fairness. We therefore propose to introduce a process to publish details of any pending conduct committee hearing on the CLSB website and enable interested parties to observe the hearing.

“The conduct committee will retain ultimate control over the proceedings, including the power to ask members of the public to leave if their conduct is considered unacceptable.”

Appeals will continue to be considered on paper, however.

Interim suspensions would allow the CLSB to stop a Costs Lawyer from practising when he or she is facing particularly serious allegations that put public protection or the principles underlying the legal regulation regime are at risk.

The consultation said a review of past cases did not identify any in which an interim order should or could have been imposed had the power existed, but “we acknowledge that a case could arise in which an interim order may be required to protect the public interest in the future”.

The power would only be exercisable by the CLSB following consideration by an independent lay panel member; that decision would be appealable. If an order was imposed, the Costs Lawyer could apply to have it lifted at any time.

The draft new rules say that, other than where an interim suspension order has been imposed, publication of disciplinary outcomes will only occur where a breach of a principle has been established and following expiry of the time for an appeal or, where there is one, of the appeal process.

The consultation closes on 15 November.

 

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