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A warning to all potential investors and migrants considering Australia

The Studer Case

When the Studers migrated to Australia from Europe they believed that they would find the same standards in law and order as in other democratic, industrialised countries. They learnt the hard way that this is not the case. They can thus confirm what a former Chief Judge of the Australian High Court, said:

      "Every democratic, industrialised country except Australia has legal protection of rights, including the right to equality, of one kind or another".
      [Mason CJ, previous Chief Justice of the High Court in Australia.]

The Studers were not poor when they came to Australia. They owned a house in Switzerland, which they sold for $ 750,000 with their equity being $550,000. They intended to invest in Australia and to build up a holiday resort. For this purpose they purchased a 20ha property near Byron Bay. But it all went wrong. Their solicitor together with the vendor conspired against them, other legal professionals messed up the whole matter and the Australian courts, with their usual attitude not to seek the truth 'helped' with the result that the Studers were 'asset stripped' ending up penniless.

The Studers wish to share this very valuable lesson with every person intending to migrate or to invest in property in Australia. The Studer story will be published in detail in a report about corrupt legal professionals and how this corruption and the legal system creates poverty in Australia

It all started when they purchased a property and did what may well be the most dangerous thing a new migrant not schooled in the ways of Australia can do: They trusted a local solicitor. Alas, they had no real choice at the time, because when purchasing a property in NSW one has to retain a solicitor to do the paperwork.

If the outcome of putting such trust in a solicitor had not ended up being so traumatic for them one could actually laugh about the joke played on them by means of what they were told by the official literature.

The 'joke' goes as follows. What is effectively a solicitors union in NSW, the Law Society of NSW, advertises that one is protected by their insurance system in case a solicitor is negligent or does anything wrong. Well, the Studer's experiences shows this is just not true and that in reality no protection at all exists as the insurer, Law Cover Pty Ltd, fights tooth and nail once a claim is made and the Law Society avoids investigating the complaint. That is the simple reality. Zero consumer protection exists.

The 'joke' is fully exposed when reports of the New South Wales Government Audit Office are considered. These reveal that - surprise surprise - The Law Society of NSW actually owns Law Cover ! So the NSW government has long been aware of the 'joke'.

On the one hand the Law Society of NSW has been given by government a statutory obligation to investigate complaints and institute disciplinary procedures against solicitors suspected of misconduct. On the other hand, through Law Cover Pty Ltd, it has assumed the role of defending solicitors over negligence!

In the Studer's case, matters just became worse every time solicitors meddled with it. At the end, after a 12 year fight, the Studers went before the Court of Appeal and learnt that, yes, their first solicitor had been grossly negligent and in breach of trust. Not that this acknowledgment brought them any relief or remedy ! The court would not see through the whole web of deceit and dishonesty created by 7 (seven) solicitors and one barrister! After all, a NSW court has not role in finding truth only in finding a winner! This of course comes very handy for the game of justice as played in NSW.

Like many other people new to NSW, the Studers found out that there is law for some people but not for others. In their case the court accepted that people who breached the law should be rewarded and compensated for doing so. While the Studers, who had observed the law were to be asset stripped by this 'justice system'. They wonder now whether this mode of operation has anything to do with Australia's history as a convict colony ?

Justice as understood by people from continental Europe? There is none.

All you get in NSW is a game designed by lawyers, refereed by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. And within this government approved ( via statute laws) game it turns out that it is the lawyers who are protected by law - and woe betide any NSW legal consumer who thinks they can use litigation against legal professionals !

Such is the reality of 'due process at law' in New South Wales, Australia.

Today the Studers say:

We would not have sold our home in Switzerland and invested in Australia if we had any idea that no human rights, no remedies are given in cases where lawyers defraud people. In order to understand this situation one has know that Australia has legal system which is controlled by lawyers and their indemnity insurance system and which is blessed by the Australian Government.

In talking to others we now see our experience of Australia is just one of many similar examples. Corruption is endemic in the legal system here and there is no independent authority people can turn for investigation or help. There is simply no protection by law.

When we fell into the hands of dishonest solicitors we contacted about 50 legal professionals for help and of those contacted we could now only recommend two. Everyone who wants to know whether a lawyer they are about to retain is known to us can inquire via E-mail to OVOP which will pass on the inquiry.

We strongly advise people from overseas to carefully consider our experiences when planning to migrate to or to invest in Australia.

This case was reported in the Sydney press as follows:

Client sues
own lawyer

By WARREN OWENS PROPERTY owner Chris Studer was so unhappy at his experience with the State's new-fangled court mediation scheme that he sued his own lawyer. He claimed his lawyer had exerted undue pressure on him to settle the case for a $100,000 payout, more than double the amount the lawyer had earlier advised. Last week, Mr Studer lost his challenge - after a Supreme Court judge said it was permissible for a lawyer to put reasonable pressure on a client to accept a decision that was "in his best interests". Justice Peter Young had earlier noted that the outcome of lawsuits was "a lottery" - as every litigation lawyer knew. Now Mr Studer faces an uncertain financial future - possibly bankruptcy - after he was ordered to pay his former lawyer's costs. The court decision was the Swiss immigrant's latest bout in the NSW legal system as he fought to stop his dream of a new life here becoming a nightmare.

Chris and Erica Studer were tourists in 1983 when they fell in love with a piece of paradise on the NSW far north coast. They sold their home near Zurich and bought a 20ha property between Mullumbimby's rainforest and the sea. Fourteen years later, their property is gone, their life savings have vanished and they have been forced to rely on the goodwill of lawyers willing to take up their cause for free. Along the way, they have learned some painful lessons about the vagaries of NSW property law, and the "equitable interest" of lessees - unknown in their homeland. The Studers had two lessees on part of their property and quickly paid one out, on their lawyer's advice. Then they moved to evict the other - living in an illegal house on an illegal subdivision - and their problems started. Conflicting claims of verbal assurances between the two parties, sloppy legal work and inconsistent statements by the Studers' initial lawyer - later disbarred for other

reasons - and some distant legal precedents complicated the picture. Despite the Studers' belief they had a strong case, they agreed to try the then-new mediation scheme - being promoted by the NSW Law Society - in a bid to hasten proceedings. But when Mr Studer walked from the mediation room 10 hours later, he was shaken by an agreed $100,000 pay-out, despite his lawyer's earlier advice that $30,000 or so should fix his problem. Nor did his first lawyer's agreement to pay $20,000 - as compensation for his errors - relieve Mr Studer's concern. He complained that mediation involved 10 hours of emotional negotiations, his English-speaking wife was unavailable, so he depended on his lawyer as his interpreter - and if he didn't agree to the big payout, his lawyer would be unable to handle the case any further. He had "fought like a tiger" to resist a payout he felt was unfair, but in the end he signed up. Then he sued.

ONE VOICE - ONE PEOPLE is an independent, non-party-political, non-profit organisation committed to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms and to contribute to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes


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