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City Desk
30 August, 2005  
Dashing move by Law Soc chief to lock-up journalists

Three print journalists are looking for clean jimjams and toothbrushes as the president of the Law Society of NSW wants to haul them before the court and get their source for a juicy leak about the shenanigans over the reappointment of the CEO, Mark Richardson

imageNSW Law Society President John McIntyre is demanding the immediate resignation of a member of his council for leaking to the press graphic and juicy details of the fiery internal debate surrounding the reappointment of CEO Mark Richardson.

By close of business today (Tuesday, Aug 30) if the cad hasn’t gone into the library and shot himself then McIntyre will seek a resolution at the meeting of council on September 8, “to instruct the Law Society’s solicitors to immediately commence preliminary proceedings in the Supreme Court under Part 5 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules to compel the attendance of the three journalists before the court [Chris Merritt, Marcus Priest and Michael Pelly] to answer questions on oath and to produce documents to enable the Law Society to ascertain the identity of the councillor so that the Law Society can commence proceedings against the councillor for breach of that councillor’s duties as a director”.

Not the most elegant sentence ever written, but it comes straight from a memorandum that Headmaster McIntyre circulated to all the prefects dated Wednesday, August 24.

You can read the delicious memo here.

It followed phone calls last week to the Law Society by press reptiles from The Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Review and The Australian after they were tipped off by a friendly mole about the gruesome contents of the council meeting and that there was a 50:50 split on the issue of Richardson’s reappointment.

Importantly, Richo only fell across the line because of Headmaster McIntyre’s casting vote. The president apparently said he would resign if his boy was not reappointed. Incoming president June McPhie was revealed as an opponent of his reappointment.

Chris Merritt ran much of the ins and outs of the story in The Australian last Friday, quoting a certain amount of rhubarb from Richo – that his reappointment gave the society a stable foundation to build an even stronger voice for the state’s solicitors, blah, blah.

The official announcement of Richardson’s reappointment does not mention for how long he’s got the gig. See here.

Anyway, it does seem a brilliant idea to get journalists before the court to cough-up the name of their snout and deliver all their documents. Even though they’re probably eating any relevant notes right now failure to answer questions about the identity of the secret source could lead to charges of contempt, and ultimately lengthy prison stretches for these wretches.

This will be applauded in the wider community which, according to recent statements by Prime Minister Little Johnnie Howard, want to see more journalists in jail. Headmaster McIntyre has hit upon a clever public relations idea to reinvigorate public support for the law society which, you’ve got to admit, in recent years has looked a bit shabby.

His memo to councillors claimed that these unauthorised disclosures are, “a clear breach of the councillors’ code of conduct and of the fiduciary duty of all councillor directors to act in good faith and in the best interests of the Law Society as a corporation”.

Intriguingly, McIntyre assured any rats in the ranks that if they come forward and surrender, “I undertake to make no comment about the resignation”. Finally, the Headmaster splutters:

“I trust that the councillor responsible has the courage to make some amends for such reprehensible conduct by submitting a resignation.”

“Courage” – now there’s a word. As Horace Walpole wrote: “Resolution on reflection is real courage.”