Court orders lawyer to pay for not attending hearings


THE Goroka National Court has ordered a lawyer to pay half the cost incurred by the defendants in a teachers leave fare entitlements case that was dismissed after the lawyer demonstrated lack of professionalism to represent her clients.
Judge Justice William Neill ordered lawyer Veronica Palts, of Veronica Palts Lawyers, to pay half of the cost and principal plaintiff Branson Tomane and others to pay the other half of the cost the defendants’ incurred in the proceedings.
According to the file endorsement notes, Palts failed to appear in court to represent her clients on six occasions. Oct 27 was the seventh occasion.
In an email message, Palts said she preferred to attend a Mt Hagen District Court matter in which she was the complainant. She left all the serious issues to be argued by her client, Tomane and others. She had earlier failed to prepare documents to be considered by the court.
Justice Neill ordered Palts not to seek reimbursements from Tomane for the court costs she had been ordered to pay.
Tomane is a senior education officer in Eastern Highlands and advocate for teachers’ welfare and rights since he represented them on the PNG Teachers Association as branch president.
Although he is no longer the president, Tomane fought for teachers who were deprived of various entitlements, including unpaid and underpaid leave fares, repatriations fare. He took up the matter in court after numerous attempts to settle the matters with the
Eastern Highlands Education Division and the provincial government.
He named provincial education administrator Samson Akunai, provincial education adviser Thomas Jonduo and the Eastern Highlands government as defendants.
Justice Neill found the plaintiff failed to fulfill requirements of section five of the Claims by and against the State Act (section 5 notice), and order five rule eight of the National Court Rules where no written authority from respective claimants whom the plaintiff represented.
While dismissing the proceeding in its entirety and making the orders, Justice Neill stated that it was a sad situation that claimants who had given important service to the province and PNG of educating  children should be denied their entitlements.
Tomane told The National after the decision that he would seek support of the teachers’ employer the Teaching Services Commission to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.