Australia: Solicitor reprimanded, fined for falsely witnessing signature on e-affidavit

A solicitor who falsely witnessed the signature of her client on an e-affidavit that was subsequently filed in Family Court divorce proceedings was found to have engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct and received a reprimand and $3,000 fine.

The NSW Legal Services Commissioner brought disciplinary action against solicitor Jia Hong Zou after finding that she had falsely witnessed her client’s signature on an e-affidavit, during a time when she was unable to receive guidance from a more senior solicitor and had otherwise believed she had correctly verified the signature.

Ms Zou admitted that she knew the client had not signed the e-affidavit in her presence, and understood at the time that the purpose of witnessing the signature was to ensure that it was not forged or otherwise fraudulent. With that understanding, Ms Zou did compare the signature to others to verify it was correct.