Can a Society Member Resign to Avoid a Society’s Disciplinary processes?

Can a Society Member Resign to Avoid a Society’s Disciplinary processes?

Resignation to avoid discipline? Complaints were made to the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand Inc (“IPENZ”) against Mr Harding, an engineer involved in the design and construction of the former CTV building in Christchurch which collapsed during the 22 February 2011 earthquake, and also against Dr Reay the principal of the engineering firm that had employed Mr Harding (described as “a relatively inexperienced member of his staff” in Attorney-General v Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc [2018] NZHC 74 at paragraph [6]). After disciplinary proceedings were commenced against them, Mr Harding and Dr Reay each resigned from IPENZ, in the apparent hope or expectation of avoiding the disciplinary processes.  On the face of it, one might well think that, if they were no longer members, then neither of them could be disciplined by that Institute.  Two High Court Judges concluded otherwise in Harding v Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand Inc [2014] NZHC 2251 and Attorney-General v Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc [2018] NZHC 3211.  In both cases the Judges were required to interpret the meaning of the IPENZ constitution.  However, other society constitutions might be interpreted differently.   The contract of membership between a society and its members There is clear judicial authority, that, on becoming members, a contract arises between a society and its members, with the terms of that contract being set out in the rules of the society (see, for instance, Finnigan v New Zealand Rugby Football Union Inc [1985] 2 NZLR 159 at 177 (CA)), with a member by virtue of membership agreeing to be bound by the rules...