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  • Barrister publicly reprimanded over troubling court behaviour
  • By Kay Dibben
  • 23/09/2019 Make a Comment (1)
  • Contributed by: Kim ( 1 article in 2019 )
A BARRISTER who made serious baseless allegations about judges during Family Court appeals has been publicly reprimanded for professional misconduct.

A tribunal heard former Gold Coast barrister Patricia Merkin suggested a Family Court trial judge may have been involved in amending or editing audio recordings and the transcript of a custody hearing.

Ms Merkin, who has previously tutored in health law and ethics at a university, has given an undertaking to a disciplinary tribunal that she will no longer practise in family law.

Her unsubstantiated allegations about the tampering of a court audio and transcripts were referred to Queensland’s Bar Association by the Full Family Court.

Despite the mother she represented listening to the court recording and finding it matched the transcript, Ms Merkin persisted with her allegations in appeal submissions.

Ms Merkin had suggested the audio recording of the Family Court hearing had been tampered with, to delete an asserted incident, before it was transcribed.

The Full Family Court judges were highly critical of Ms Merkin’s conduct at the 2013 appeal, saying it was “most troubling’’ that she had suggested the trial judge may have been involved.

At her disciplinary hearing, Ms Merkin said she still considered it possible that the trial judge, or someone connected with the administration of justice, had interfered with the recording.

In a separate appeal against parenting orders, for another mother, Ms Merkin suggested another trial judge had made orders against a mother that reflected the judge’s own research.

The Full Family Court said Ms Merkin had made a serious assertion about the judge, suggesting actual bias by pre-judgment, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

The judges found the appeal ground was “so lacking in foundation as to be fanciful’’ and said it raised concerns about Ms Merkin’s conduct in advancing it.

Queensland’s Bar Association referred both matters to the Legal Services Commissioner, who brought three disciplinary charges against Ms Merkin.

QCAT president Justice Martin Daubney said Ms Merkin showed a lack of appreciation of the gravity and serious consequences of her submissions before the appeal court.

Even when responding to allegations in the tribunal hearing she had persisted to try to justify her conduct, Justice Daubney said.

It was only in final submissions that Ms Merkin expressed remorse and apologised for making such grave allegations without a proper basis.

Justice Daubney said but for her late appreciation of her misguided approach, the tribunal might have had reason to doubt her ongoing fitness to practise.

On September 13, the tribunal ordered Ms Merkin to complete 12 months’ readership, being mentored by senior and junior counsel, before she can be granted a practising certificate.


    By:Simon from VIC, AUSTRALIA on September 24, 2019 @ 9:52 am
    One response to this story was found on a facebook group called ‎Australian Association to Stop Guardianship & Admin Abuse (AASGAA) which I have found in my experience re transcripts, recordings and the lack of transparency that flourishes in the whole legal industry, corporations and big business to this day to be true, which needs to change.

    "This story is a bogus attempt by “the establishment” to incriminate a truly dedicated barrister for trying to raise the issues with in the family law system. This is a woman of pure heart and integrity who aims to protect children and women from abuse.

    There are two barristers who have tried to stand up to what the family law system is doing to vulnerable mothers and children who are victims of domestic violence and where child safety issues are apparent. She is one of them, and she is a hero.

    In order for people to protect their legal interests it should be absolutely required that people be allowed to record the court hearing themselves and not rely on Auscript who can be controlled using an IM tool called “court chat”(?) by the judges as it happens.

    Court sessions should be recorded two reasons, 1. If a victim of domestic violence has had all of their finances taken away by the other party, they should not be disadvantaged by the horrendous court costs invoked by the other party. And 2. Making a recording of the court proceedings allows a person to take their own transcript and present evidence where the judgement does not match the content of the proceedings or comply with the intention of the law. The law aims to protect victims of domestic violence, not perpetuate the issue by exacerbating family law proceedings and further abusing the victim.

    There is substantial evidence to show that transcripts are tampered with, I have found this myself. It can be the deletion of just a few words that changes the context of the entire sentence, which validates their judgement. This is the method by which they avoid the appeal.

    Noticing that the author of this article obviously has not done his research and interviewed the barrister in question, because if he had done so he would have viewed the evidence. This occurred because she was raising the issues that are now subject to the Parliamentary Inquiry - and she will be a critical witness to the misconduct and misbehaviour behind the family courts."

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