The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 3, December 2011
Summary of Disciplinary Matters
In this Summary of Disciplinary Matters, the Law Society of Alberta seeks to educate and inform lawyers on its role as an independent regulator in the public interest.
The hearing reports issued may correspond to the hearings held during this period, but may reflect hearings held earlier. In this issue, one of the reports are summarized below. All hearing reports are available at www.lawsociety.ab.ca under Lawyer Regulation/Hearings & Outcomes/Hearing Reports.
Fine and Reprimand of A.
The professional standing of a member of the Law Society of Alberta is fundamental to the practice of law and rules governing this status must be complied with by the lawyer with respect to being an active or inactive member in good standing, or whose membership is under suspension.
A. represented himself as a “Barrister & Solicitor [Alberta, Inactive]”; and, “Barrister & Solicitor [Alberta], through email correspondence to the public following his suspension by the Law Society.
A. did not respond to a formal demand to respond to a complaint by the Law Society. A. agreed to a statement of facts, resulting in eight citations for misrepresentation of professional status but did not admit any guilt. The Hearing Committee denounced A. for misrepresenting his professional status and reprimanded him for his failure to do so and ordered him to pay a fine of $250 for each of the eight citations and the full cost of the hearing.
A. was admitted to the Bar on September 21, 1980 and practised in Edmonton, AB, until transferring to the inactive/non-practising list on January 27, 1983. On September 1, 1993, he was suspended for non-payment of costs ordered to be paid in an unrelated disciplinary matter.
At all times, A. was aware of his suspended status. The lawyer always sent his correspondence to his recipients via email adding the designation “Barrister and Solicitor [Alberta, Inactive] to the signature block on the covering emails and concerned, among other things, topics of a legal nature – not in terms of practising law and giving legal advice – but only academic legal scholarship matters. A. also identified himself as a “Barrister & Solicitor [Alberta]” and as an “attorney” on other occasions.
The Hearing Committee found A. guilty of conduct deserving of sanction – fine and reprimand – on all counts, which was made more egregious because the lawyer was suspended and did not respond to Law Society correspondence.
The Hearing Committee said it is not acceptable for a lawyer to misrepresent his or her status because it is an issue of governability. When a lawyer represents himself or herself as active and practising when in fact he or she is not, the Law Society’s ability to govern lawyers is compromised. There is an obligation on a suspended lawyer to not hold out or represent that he or she is a lawyer not under suspension.
The Hearing Committee also found that A.’s failure to respond to the Law Society’s correspondence was also conduct deserving of sanction. If A. sought to argue about the meaning and observation of the sections of the Legal Profession Act and the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, that should have been communicated to the Law Society. He did not do so until the hearing. The Law Society’s ability to govern its members is important to the public interest and to protect reputation of the profession.
The Hearing Committee was composed of Neena Ahluwalia QC, Chair and Bencher, Harry Van Harten and Amal Umar, Benchers. The decision on sanction was made by the Committee comprising of Neena Ahluwalia and Amal Umar.
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