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Strata litigation is a loathsome, offensive brute… Yet I can’t look away

Article by Tim Graham, Partner

Owners Corporation 1 Plan No. RP 2044 v Finch[i] concerned an application to restrain a solicitor from acting in a standard debt recovery proceeding.

At the hearing, Finch took issue with the fact that the OC’s lawyer had made oral submissions to the effect that there was no material to support the making of the applications Finch sought. He also referred to a couple of cases which stood for standard propositions as to what is required to support such applications. Finch referred to this as being evidence of more ‘shenanigans’, and said she was being ambushed and this was a denial of justice. She referred to the fact she is a self-represented litigant.

Unsurprisingly, the tribunal found that [at 7]:

It is not ambushing or shenanigans or a denial of justice to submit that a claim is not established, nor to quote standard cases regarding applications. It is for someone seeking relief to establish they are entitled to it. This includes a self-represented litigant. Finch was given ample opportunity to satisfy the Tribunal of her applications and did not do so. It is quite proper for that to be pointed out by the solicitor for the respondent.

Fanciful” barely begins to describe the allegations made by Finch.  She complained of many matters, including that the OC’s lawyer:

  • agreed to act for the applicant without proper authority.
  • had not complied with Tribunal orders as to filing of affidavits and been misleading in the information presented and material submitted to the Tribunal;
  • had brought a case against her that is ‘defective, incompetent, frivolous, vexatious, species, misconceived and not tenable in fact or law’ (Finch’s affidavit of 10 March 2020 at [25]);
  • had responded to all her emails and has otherwise not dealt with the matter the way she considers it should;
  • had otherwise conducted itself in a way that has disadvantaged Finch;
  • told ‘untruths’;
  • had been involved sporadically and lead Finch to believe it was possibly no longer representing the applicant;
  • breached ethical obligations of some sort.

Finch also alleged that there had been a lack of respect to her and the judiciary shown repeatedly.

The tribunal responded with summary precision.  It had no inherent jurisdiction to restrain or control the conduct of legal officers and cannot restrain a solicitor on the grounds that it is necessary in the administration of justice.

Ms Finch’s appetite was not sated.  She argued that she wants to raise criminal matters in the Tribunal, and criticised Tribunal members for being incompetent, and having insufficient knowledge of criminal matters which she raised.

Finch also said, at the hearing, that she wants to bring a counterclaim, including defamation claims, against various people including three owners, an OC Manager, and possibly against OC.  Those proposed defamation claims apparently related to a contract of sale regarding one lot owner’s property (Mr Costa), in relation to which Finch says allegations about her, her conduct, and money that is said to be owed by her, have been made, and which she says have been given to ‘every Tom, Dick or Harry who has asked for it’. 

Of course, VCAT has no jurisdiction to her or determine criminal matters, or defamation  matters.  And so the proceeding will make arresting viewing as it advances.

[i] (Owners Corporations) [2022] VCAT 149 (9 February 2022)