Demonstrations at lawyers’ homes
Simon Maude is the Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society. He expresses concern about the recent picketing of family lawyers’ homes by members of a men’s group in the Auckland area, as follows.
Recently, the website of a group of men issued an invitation to its members to further demonstrations outside lawyers’ homes with these words: “It is expected that a reporter from the Herald, one from the Central Leader and possibly TV3 will attend so a good turn out would be good for our cause but never mind that it’s great fun and empowering to stick it to those cockroaches anyway.”
While this may appear to be harmless fun to some, the reality for the lawyers on the receiving end is that they have been subjected to insulting and abusive attacks, much of which has been amplified through a loudspeaker system to the annoyance of anyone in the immediate neighbourhood. These actions have not only upset the lawyers involved but also their children, who, in some cases, have been frightened and quite disturbed by the experience.
If the intention of these groups has been to embarrass and offend the lawyers, then to a certain extent they have been successful. If their intention has been to frighten the lawyers’ children, then they have probably also succeeded, but why and at what cost?
While the Family Law Section would not challenge the group’s right to demonstrate to seek changes in family law, the Section believes they have misdirected their energies by engaging in personal attacks on lawyers and their families.
It may be that there is a misunderstanding of the role of lawyers in the Family Court and in particular the role of lawyers appointed to represent children. The men demonstrating may have assumed that lawyers for the children have much greater power and influence than is in fact the case. The role of the lawyer acting for the child is largely to represent the child’s views to the Court.
The reality is that most lawyers representing children also act, at other times, for adult parties in proceedings involving children. As advocates they are required to do their best to represent the interests of all their clients, whether they are adults or children. Children’s lawyers do not make the decisions about the children, the Court does.
To take action against family lawyers at their homes will not effect changes to the system but will cause distress to their children and the children of the neighbourhood who, not surprisingly, find demonstrations outside their homes intimidating and frightening.