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Family Law Think Tank on Serene Teffaha from Advocate Me

Serene Teffaha, principal solicitor at law firm, Advocate Me, allegedly in closed court submissions during a matter before the magistrates court in Brisbane, accused the Family Court and its judiciary and police of enabling abuse of a child.

Ms Teffaha has taken a few jabs at the Family Court at rallies in Melbourne. On at least one occasion she has labelled the court as "corrupt".

Now the Victorian Legal Services Board has cancelled her practising certificate and she is unable to practise law. The board has not said what led to the cancellation. Effectively, she cannot operate her business and has no way to support herself.

Brisbane magistrate, Anthony Gett referred Ms Teffaha to Victoria's Legal Services Commission over submissions in court that he said “may be prejudicial to or diminish the public confidence in the administration of justice”.

It's not the first time that someone has called the Family Court a bad name.

Unlike the rest of the nation, a solicitor owes a primary duty to the court. This duty can be found in the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules:

3.1 A solicitor’s duty to the court and the administration of justice is paramount and prevails to the extent of inconsistency with any other duty.

Someone who is not a solicitor can openly call a court pretty much whatever they want. Check out how scathing politicians Pauline Hanson and Jackie Lambie are of the Family Court. They are not solicitors, so no ramifications for them.

Jess Hill, journalist and author of See What You Made Me Do, has taken plenty of swings at the Family Court.

Facebook has multiple pages and groups with thousands of members all dissatisfied, disillusioned or simply broken from their experience in the Family Court openly expressing hurt, disgust and many alleging child abuse within the system.

Australia has had at least 3 national inquiries into the Family Court. In Submission 112 to the 2018 inquiry, the author, a highly educated father (including Ph D qualifications), who had been labelled a vexatious litigant after putting forward his concerns about sexual abuse of his daughter to the Family Court, had this to say about the system:

"The Family Court is a disgusting cesspit of corruption and must be abolished forthwith and replaced with a lesser adversarial system."

Submission 112 is a public document and can be downloaded freely. No ramifications for this author.

Speaking on ABC Breakfast show on the 21st July 2016 Professor Patrick Parkinson, law professor and a specialist in Family Law stated, “that the Family Court system is almost entirely dysfunctional ...it is in serious trouble and needs to be addressed quickly.”

He went on to say, “that it can take up to two years or longer for cases to be heard in the Federal Circuit Court, which deals with the majority of Family Law cases, in which time children can be exposed to serious harm.”

Professor Parkinson is not a solicitor. Two years after making that on air statement in 2016, he got a promotion - to become the Dean of Law at the University of Qld from 2018-2021. No ramifications for him for labelling the family court system "almost entirely dysfunctional" and risk of exposing children to "serious harm".

You can read more about Prof Parkinson here: https://bit.ly/3wZHKf3

I've never met Serene Teffaha. I have only read about her in newspapers.

I'm a solicitor bound by rule 3.1 of the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules. But what of my duty to a fellow solicitor, a fellow human being, who has echoed the sentiment of thousands of other Australians in relation to the Family Court? It does not sit right with me. The law society would call this "a conflict" resolved by going back to rule 3.1 and reminding myself that my paramount duty is to the court.

Perhaps me writing these thoughts and expressing sympathy for Ms Teffaha will lead to someone making a complaint about me. Maybe I will lose my right to practise law too.

Did Serene Teffaha go too far? Or was she voicing what thousands of people believe and has been punished for doing so?

Read about it here in The Guardian (free to read):

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