Criminal lawyer Zali Burrows’ 12-year pursuit of her own lawyers over a $12,000 sum has pushed her to the brink of bankruptcy, which she is attempting to fend off with more legal action in the Federal Court.
Burrows, whose high-profile clients include former Auburn deputy mayor and convicted fraud Salim Mehajer, murderer and drug importer Bassam Hamzy and terrorist Hamdi Alqudsi, is appealing bankruptcy orders brought against her by Macpherson Kelley Lawyers on grounds including that the notice was not correctly served.
The origins of the dispute date back to a legal matter in 2011, since which time a judge of the NSW Court of Appeal has commented that the costs of pursuing the sum awarded in her favour have vastly exceeded the amount in issue. Macpherson Kelley, then known as M&K Sydney, advised Burrows in the 2011 proceedings, with the court making a costs order of $12,239.83 in her favour.
In November 2015, Burrows sued M&K Sydney and her former solicitor Melinda Di Condio in the NSW District Court, saying they had failed to enforce that costs order, with an additional claim of $50,000 in damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages against them.
But the NSW District Court dismissed Burrows’ claim, finding that she had applied for her costs in the original matter to be quantified after terminating her retainer with M&K Sydney, and it was up to her to agitate it, which she had failed to do. In February 2020, the District Court awarded a lump sum costs order of $130,000 in favour of M&K Sydney.
Burrows appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal, claiming that the primary judge had erred in his findings and denied her procedural fairness by declining to grant her a second adjournment.
But the Court of Appeal dismissed her application, finding no reviewable error or procedural unfairness “in circumstances where her counsel was not available on the suggested date, and where she had repeatedly failed to comply with directions, had provided no evidentiary basis for her application, save that her computer had broken the previous day, had failed to serve evidence by 19 February as directed, and had not given notice of the adjournment application prior to the morning of the day of the hearing”.
On April 20, 2022, Macpherson Kelley issued Burrows with a bankruptcy notice that she attempted to have put aside through the Federal Court. She was unsuccessful.
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