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The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 2, April 2012


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

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.

Reprimand of A.

An Alberta sole practitioner was fined and reprimanded for his conduct related to four main problem areas concerning his law practice after providing a Law Society hearing panel a full and frank account of his efforts to conform to proper accounting processes.

The panel received evidence that A. suffered from depression, and was receiving help from his family physician. The Panel noted in its hearing report that there was no hint of any dishonesty in the citations before the Hearing Committee. He worked as a tradesman prior to attending law school. He was admitted to the Alberta bar in 1985 and his practice focuses on real estate, with significant work on matrimonial/family and wills/estates files.

The Panel noted that the four main problem areas, spanning a period from 2006 to 2009, included (1) his alleged failure to follow Law Society of Alberta accounting rules; (2) allegations that he did not make his GST filings and payments as required, (3) concerns about his actions in acting for client “N”, the vendor of an Edmonton home, and (4) allegations that he failed to respond in a proper fashion to the Law Society. These four areas were expressed in seven citations.

The Panel’s report noted that he has three previous entries on his discipline report. The first, from February 1996, involved a fine, reprimand and costs. The second entry referred to a count of breach of trust conditions, and the third concerned failing to properly respond to Law Society communications. On these, he also received a fine, reprimand and costs.

The Hearing was held in Edmonton on three dates.

On April 19, 2010, he entered guilty pleas to all citations and an agreed statement of facts. The Panel accepted that all of the pleas were appropriate and were conduct deserving of sanction. The Hearing was adjourned until September 27, 2010 after representations by both counsel. He agreed to comply with five conditions designed to bring his practice into line with Law Society accounting procedures.

On September 27, 2010, he entered a guilty plea to a single citation in an exhibit. The Hearing Committee accepted the plea based on the agreed facts submitted. The Hearing was further adjourned to January 10, 2011 for submissions as to sanctions. The Hearing Panel imposed seven conditions upon him to ensure his compliance with proper accounting procedures.

Law Society counsel agreed that in the circumstances, a fine, reprimand and costs would adequately address the public interest, and asked that conditions be imposed on the member’s practice. On January 10, 2011, the Hearing Committee imposed a fine and a reprimand upon him plus actual costs of the Hearing and audit costs.

During the hearing, the Panel received evidence that A. suffered from depression and was being treated by his physician. The panel noted in its report that he “had simply lost control of his practice and ‘froze’ when confronted by the Law Society.”

The Hearing Panel imposed a fine of $5,000.00, plus costs of the Hearing set at $4,706.83. Further, he was directed to abide by the five conditions relating to the member’s accounting records on a continuing basis and to pay audit costs of $6,759.39. As well, he was granted 18 months to pay. Lastly, he was directed to take counseling and treatment as directed by his physician, bearing in mind the previous diagnosis of depression.

The Hearing Committee was composed of then Panel Chair John Higgerty, QC; N. Ahluwalia, QC, Bencher; and W. Jacques, Public Representative to the Benchers.

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