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Glenn Thexton, former solicitor restrained from practicing law, breaches court orders

Victorian Legal Services Board v Thexton (contempt) [2021] VSC 357 (21 June 2021)

The respondent, a former solicitor, allegedly breached a Court order restraining him from law practice and representing himself as one entitled to engage in legal practice.  It is disputed whether or not the application for contempt should be dismissed on the ground of triviality.

Facts:

Glenn Thexton was suspended from law practice upon the appointment of Nick Curran, except under direct supervision of the latter.  Thexton then paid a locksmith to change the locks of the premises where his law practice was conducted which prevented the newly appointed manager from accessing files.  Thexton also made use of the Gmail address representing that he was still entitled to practice law.

The Board applied for him to be punished for civil contempt. Arndt, the landlord’s property agent, testified that Thexton requested to change the locks.  Upon discovery by Curran’s staff, Curran was informed and the latter made demands to Thexton and Arndt for access.  Thexton argues that the testimony of Arndt, against the former was filled with inconsistencies and the case against Thexton cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Issues:

  1. Whether respondent breached Court order restraining him from obstructing the manager of the respondent’s law practice
  2. Whether respondent breached Court order restraining him from advertising or representing being entitled to engage in legal practice
  3. Whether contempt application should be dismissed for triviality

 

Applicable law:

Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015 (Vic) O 75 - summons should particularize with sufficient clarity what was alleged against the respondent.

Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014  s 76(a) - provides the power of the Board to suspend certificate to practice law as an effect of the appointment of a new                                manager.

Rule 75  - where contempt is committed in relation to a Court proceeding, the application shall be made by summons specifying the contempt with which a respondent is charged.

Advan Investments Pty Ltd v Dean Gleeson Motor Sales Pty Ltd & Ors [2003] VSC 201 - provides that contempt proceedings for breach of court order should not be brought for trivial matters.

Analysis:

Pursuant to the Rules, Thexton was provided with detailed evidence from the Board’s witnesses before the hearing.  The former did not demonstrate that the summons was unclear but instead emphasized Arndt’s role in changing the locks and denying Curran’s access.

The Board is well within their right to prohibit Thexton’s practice in light of Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014  s 76(a).  Thexton’s reliance on the case of Advan Investments is untenable because his actions clearly show a serious form of obstruction since it is in the nature of defiance of the Court’s Orders and had Curran spend a huge amount of time to access the Premises.

Conclusion:

The Board has proven that Mr Thexton is guilty of contempt of court for obstructing the Manager exercising his functions as manager within the meaning of s 364 of the Uniform Law because he caused the locks to be changed.  The Board failed to prove that he was in contempt of court for doing things that stated or implied, that he was entitled to engage in legal practice when not an Australian practitioner within the meaning of s 11 of the Uniform Law because he had not used his Gmail address in communicating with the public or their clients.

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