An ethical issue involves situations where an individual faces a moral dilemma to make. In this case depending on the argument of the person in the dilemma he or she may be justified in whatever step they make. In this paper, the issue of private car park operators imposing fines according to their system is an ethical issue that requires a legal intervention. The parking Bonanza and their clients feel justified in their course of action, and a solicitor can help settle the battle in alleged liquidated damages as claimed by the Parking bonanza firm. The Queensland law society provides a procedure to help reach a decision on the contested ethical issue as outlined and explained below.
What is the ethical issue concerning you?
Parking Bonanza is a private company and like any private business organization it is up for profit due to the services they offer to their clients. “They offer some time of free parking but after an hour or two they charge a fee of between $66 and $88 on the maximum”. The Parking Bonanza makes its income by fining those who doesn’t display a ticket after using their parking slots. The user who fails to pay the allegedly liquidated damage that is as a result of not paying for the extra time they have spent and without a ticket are followed by a debt collector to pay the amount. A solicitor is used to present the claim in court to ensure those who default from serving the Bonanza’s claim are fined by the court at times up to $300. The situation is ethical since the clients are aware that no private Parking service provider has a statutory power to charge fines on clients. The Bonanza, on the other hand, is not a charity organization and has to make the profits and those who violate their terms and condition of using they services has to pay an amount.
What options can you identify?
A solicitor is required not to take up a case where personal or a different and current client they are serving conflict. If they choose to represent two clients whose interest conflict, they should ensure a high form of confidentiality. In this context, there is no form of personal interest and the representation of the parking Bonanza in the court for a legal claim will not have a challenge. But in case the parking Bonanza’s customers approach the firm with a request for representation, extreme confidentiality should be observed. The most appropriate action would be declining the Bonanza’s customer request for representation in the court. A retainer exclusively is a move that the Parking Bonanza have suggested binding the solicitor to the contract legally. If the lawyer fails to deliver on the agreed service, in this context is to obtain the claims for fine defaulter, the retainer fee is refunded. The Bonanza fines the motorbike clients who are illegal and this need a keen observance to avoid a legal conflict that may portray the defendant solicitor as acting in an unprofessional manner.
What are the relevant interests in this situation?
The relevant interest, in this case, comes basically for the parking Bonanza, who is clients to the firm. Their primary interest includes obtaining their claims from their customers who have defaulted from paying the parking fees and the fines following accumulated liquidated damages. The Bonanza also presents with the aspect of coming up with a scheme that destructs the court from developing the interests for scrutinizing the Bonanzas system for charging their fines and fees. The Bonanza suggests that if the clients should be informed that if they present to the court as requested their debts will be forgiven. Once a complainant drops the cases, the court closes the case, and the Bonanza will be in the spotlight for scrutiny on how the case has progressed. In this situation the solicitor and the firm they represent are in the process scrutinized by the court, the solicitor and the firm may be considered to have acted unethically. Australian solicitor conduct rule of 2011 recommends that solicitors as law-keepers and justice enhancers have an obligation to represent their clients with honesty. The legal profession act of 2007 can help guide on when to accept involvement in a case in a way that the professional ethics are not compromised. The legal profession Act 2007 for instance, in the 227 of the second part stipulates that failure to comply with the professional set rules one is subject to a legal action. As a result of failure to uphold the recommended professional conduct.
What guidance can you derive from sources of authority?
The case at hand is an ethical issue whose parties’ conflict; the Bonanza has the right to claim their liquidated damages, for they offer their services like any other business. Those clients who fail to pay or ignore their legal obligation of paying the price for using services have a duty to fulfil legally. I would advise the Parking Bonanza to ignore or drop the charges against the motorist who are legally not supposed to be fined by the Bonanza. They should rather name their fines as parking fees and that failure to pay in time the fees a liquidated damage accumulates due to delayed payment or violation of terms and condition of use. Clients using the Parking Bonanzas service are bound to the terms and conditions of using the services offered. From the sources of authority, I become conscious of the impropriety that will defile my legal practice as a result of a dishonest representation. The ethical issue should be explained in a rational way to avoid the image of a dishonest representation and to taunt the social fabric and moral. If the motorists are charged with a fine, the regulatory bodies’ will realize that the Bonanza is exploiting customers and upon security they may be on the wrong side with law. So if terms of charges are not revised and presented with the legal provision as regulated by regulatory authorities, both the solicitor and the Bonanza will be in a legal conflict with the legal statutory bodies in Australia.
Are there any broader ethical considerations that you need to take into account?
In a case like the one presented by the parking Bonanza, some ethical concerns may be overlooked, and a more experienced person can help exhaust all chances that may compromise my legal practice. I am using the Queensland model of ethical deliberation; it would be appropriate to discuss the case further ethical issue with solicitors from the Queensland law society. The senior counsellor from Queensland’s law society is more informed and would advise on some of the ethical issues in the case that I might have overlooked. Once all the ethical issues have been identified, considering their impacts will help in making the informed decision and ready to take the associated risks. Some ethical violation like a dishonest legal representation of a client may lead to nullification of my mandate to practice law in and maybe outside Australia. “The Australian government via the Australian law reform commission states that lawyers who practice without adequate knowledge of their ethical obligation are considered to have misconduct in their practice.” In this context as indicated by the Australian law reform commission, it is my legal and ethical obligation not to mislead the court and ensure that I broadly advise the client appropriately on the case. In this context, the client is scheming on avoiding the court appraisal of its service providing system and it my duty to advise the implication once the court finds out. There is also the aspect of avoiding the generalization of the issue. As a solicitor, it’s my duty to focus on details of the case for the client to make the informed decision and submit more information to assist during the court process.
Who have you consulted or discussed this issue with? And what was their advice?
I consulted the Queensland law society and as the member I was able to learn about the associated risk of using ambiguous knowledge to represent a client in the court. I got the advice of getting all details that have led to the current outcome of the customer’s events. Through the deep scrutiny, I got the chance to understand that the client was aware of some legal violation that they were involved in. The client fined motorist, who have the right not to pay any fines. For that matter, this situation needs legal interpretation to fit in the context, So that the defaulter motorist would pay the liquidated damage. As a solicitor, I have to ensure that I have secured the five years retainer exclusive, and this is by meeting the terms of the contract. The parking Bonanza expects me to bring their debtors into paying their fines. Motorist owners are not an exception, and so their situation would need a legal definition. To avoid the loss of the liquidated damages, they are supposed to pay. The move will also ensure that I have not breached the contract of my retainer, which is also unethical.
The likely consequences following opinions guiding course of action
In this situation, I would need to apply my professional judgement to be able to reach a profession course of action. After the timely and appropriate advice to the client concerning the whole issue, I can advise the client to consider revising the terms and meaning of the fees that they charge clients. For instance, the fines to motorist should be revised to be charged to service the parking facility they have used. Now that the Bonanza thinks the court scrutiny of their services would land them in a legal context against themselves, they should be upgraded their system to meet the legal standards. For instance, they should place stickers readily available at the entrance for clients to access, than sticking the stickers to client’s cars without their knowledge and asked them to pay for a violation. Which they may have conducted unconsciously, and in this situation the parking Bonanza is likely to lose in a legal battle with its customers. Despite the fact that their model of operation being successful and have yielded the private company high revenues in Western Australia, the firm needs to be legally compliant in their service delivery. The compliance could be done in a few days of system reorganization and setting up the appropriate structures for clients to pay their usage fee. With the current situation, the firm is at risk of legal closure due to what will seem like consumer exploitation and violation of Austrian laws that govern private providers of parking services.
What have you decided is the best course of action in this case?
With my professional experience and counsel for senior legal counsellors and other legal sources, the client is supposed to assess their legal compliance standards in the first place before approaching the court of law. Once the client has complied with the Australian legal requirements, the client will be ready for a legal battle against its debtors. With compliance, I will also be safe as a professional legal exercising on the firms’ behalf without presenting with the aspect of dishonesty or undermining the integrity and ethical responsibility.
In summary, what are your reasons for deciding on this course of action?
The course of action I have chosen, to ensure that my ethical responsibility as stipulated by the Australian law is upheld. I also want to ensure that my client doesn’t lose in the legal battle or risk the closure of their business. With such professional advice and success afterwards I would earn more trust and earn more clients in future.