Discipline digest

Please find summaries with respect to:

Raymond William Barton
Raghbir Singh Basi
Michael Zsolt Galambos
James Douglas Hall
Richard Craig Nielsen
Douglas Warren Welder

For the full text of discipline decisions, visit the Regulation & Insurance/Regulatory Hearings section of the Law Society website at lawsociety.bc.ca.

 

Raymond William Barton

Quesnel, BC

Called to the bar: September 13, 1983

Non-practising: January 1, 2004

Ceased membership: January 1, 2006

Discipline hearing: September 28, 2006 and February 12, 2007

Panel: G. Glen Ridgway, QC, Chair, Ralston S. Alexander, QC and Robert C. Brun, QC

Report issued: April 27, 2007 (2007 LSBC 24)

Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society and Donald P. Kennedy, QC for Raymond William Barton

Facts

On March 8, 2006 the Law Society issued a citation alleging that Raymond William Barton had engaged in unauthorized practice under the Legal Profession Act by performing or offering legal services to WF and his spouse, MF, for a fee, while a non-practising member of the Law Society.

Early in 2004, WF became aware that a mineral claim he purchased from WP was much smaller than he had believed when he registered the bill of sale at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Mineral Titles Branch) the previous year. In June or July 2004, WF retained Barton to determine the true size of his claim. WF and MF both told the Law Society that WF had gone to see Barton as a lawyer.

In several subsequent meetings, some of which were also attended by MF, WF and Barton discussed various issues relating to verification of the mineral claim, including terms and delivery of payment for Barton’s services and for the services of third parties. The testimony before the hearing panel was consistent on the point that Barton had communicated his status as a non-practising lawyer to WF at the time of their first meeting. However, the testimony was inconsistent regarding the amounts and terms of various payments made by and on behalf of WF, and the terms of engagement between WF, other parties and Barton.

Verdict

The hearing panel determined that when the course of dealings between WF and Barton was viewed as a whole, Barton’s actions constituted the unauthorized practice of law, but not professional misconduct.

The panel found it significant that WF initially contacted Barton because he believed him to be a lawyer, and that in their first meeting Barton told WF he expected to be reinstated in the near future. The absence of a formal accounting and the resulting uncertainty regarding Barton’s handling of funds paid by WF were noted by the panel as illustrations of the risk to the public caused by the unregulated practice of law.

The panel accepted that Barton clearly told WF that he was not a practising lawyer when he took conduct of the matter, and that he genuinely believed his practising status was about to be reinstated by the Law Society shortly after the retainer commenced. The panel concluded Barton’s conduct was not, in all the circumstances, dishonourable or disgraceful and accordingly fell short of professional misconduct.

 

Raghbir Singh Basi

Victoria, BC

Called to the bar: May 19, 1989

Resigned: May 31, 2006

Suspended: May 17, 2007

Discipline hearings: September 8, 2005 and October 6, 2006

Panel: Ralston S. Alexander, QC, Chair, Richard S. Margetts, QC and Robert C. Brun, QC

Reports issued: October 6, 2005 (2005 LSBC 41) and May 17, 2007 (2007 LSBC 25)

Counsel: Brian McKinley for the Law Society and Raghbir Singh Basi appearing on his own behalf (penalty only)

Citation 1: Facts and verdict

In a citation issued June 29, 2005, the Law Society alleged Basi failed to respond to Law Society correspondence. In a October 6, 2005 decision, the hearing panel concluded the allegations in the June 29 citation were proven and constituted professional misconduct.

Citations 2 and 3: Facts and admission

In citations dated November 22 and December 20, 2005, the Law Society alleged Basi failed to respond to Law Society correspondence, allowed a client’s company to be struck from the Corporate Registry, and failed to respond promptly to the client’s request for the corporate records. Prior to the penalty hearing for citation 1 (above), Basi admitted the allegations in both citations constituted professional misconduct. He resigned his membership in the Law Society on May 31, 2006, the same day he made the admission.

Penalty

At the October 6, 2006 penalty hearing, the panel was asked to consider a penalty for all three matters. Basi accepted responsibility for his actions and circumstances, acknowledged the authority and responsibility of the Law Society to govern the legal profession, acknowledged that he should have dealt with matters as they arose and stated his belief that his failure to do so was driven by long-standing depression.

The panel gave careful consideration to whether Basi’s actions constituted ungovernability (see page 27 of this issue of Benchers’ Bulletin) and accordingly whether disbarment was the appropriate penalty. The panel decided that a suspension with terms for reinstatement was the appropriate penalty, noting that the remedy of disbarment is extreme and ought to be imposed only when required to protect the public.

The panel ordered that Basi:

1. be suspended for 18 months;

2. must respond to the Law Society’s outstanding correspondence as set out in the three citations;

3. must support any application for reinstatement with appropriate medical evidence confirming his psychological stability and his successful resolution of the issues giving rise to these proceedings; and

4. pay costs in the amount of $5,771.

 

Michael Zsolt Galambos

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: May 17, 1991

Suspended: August 1, 2007

Panel: Gordon Turriff, QC, Chair, Joost Blom, QC and Robert W. McDiarmid, QC

Report issued: June 11, 2007 (2007 LSBC 31)

Counsel: Maureen Boyd for the Law Society and Jerome Ziskrout for Michael Zsolt Galambos

Facts

In February 2006, colleagues in the office where Michael Zsolt Galambos worked were preparing an application for short leave for an application in a matrimonial action. Galambos was aware of a discussion on whether it was necessary to serve the defendant in the action with only the writ and statement of claim, or whether the notice of motion and supporting affidavit also had to be served. On February 15, 2006, the writ and statement of claim were served on the defendant. The notice of motion and supporting affidavit were not served.

On February 17, 2006, Galambos attended before Master Barber in Supreme Court Chambers to speak to the short leave application. Prior to leaving the office for court, Galambos asked a legal secretary if the defendant had been served. She told Galambos that the defendant had been served, but the process server had not yet provided an affidavit of service. He did not ask which documents had been served on the defendant.

During his submissions in the short leave application, Galambos represented to the court that the notice of motion and supporting affidavit had been served on the defendant. The master granted the short leave application. Immediately after the application, Galambos’ associate advised him that the notice of motion and affidavit had not been served. Galambos did not return to court to advise that his representation was not accurate.

Verdict

The panel accepted Galambos’ admission that his conduct on February 17, 2006 had the effect of misleading the court, and found him guilty of professional misconduct.

Penalty

The panel underscored the importance of ensuring the court can accept statements of counsel without having to make inquiry. The panel agreed that this kind of case calls for something more than a fine and ordered a one-month suspension from August 1 to August 31, 2007 and costs of $3,000. Although the panel did not order Galambos to write a letter of apology to Master Barber, they were assured he would do so.

 

James Douglas Hall

Victoria, BC

Called to the bar: September 2, 1994

Suspended: September 6, 2005 (outstanding trust report) and November 8, 2005 (pending hearing)

Resigned: November 24, 2005

Disbarred: May 28, 2007

Discipline hearing: March 7, 8 and July 28, 2006

Panel: Anna K. Fung, QC, Chair, Ralston S. Alexander, QC and William M. Everett, QC

Reports issued: March 15, 2006 (2006 LSBC 10) and May 28, 2007 (2007 LSBC 26)

Counsel: Brian McKinley for the Law Society; no one appearing on behalf of James Douglas Hall

Facts

On March 8, 2006, the panel made an oral decision on Facts and Verdict, finding James Douglas Hall guilty of 11 counts of professional misconduct, including failure to abide by a direction of the Practice Standards Committee, failure to maintain proper records, filing a trust report containing false information and a forged signature of an accountant, practising law while suspended, breaching undertakings to the Law Society, and deliberately misleading a client and another lawyer. The panel found Hall’s professional misconduct to have been pervasive, extremely serious and, in the case of his failure to maintain proper books and records, to have extended over a number of years.

Verdict

On July 28, 2006, the panel concluded Hall should be disbarred, noting that he had repeatedly failed to respond to Law Society requests for information, had displayed indifference and contempt for matters of significance involving the Law Society, and had demonstrated a fundamental lack of honesty in his dealings with clients, auditors and the Law Society. The panel pointed out that there is ample authority in Law Society jurisprudence for disbarment where fundamental dishonesty has been demonstrated, even when no misappropriation has occurred.

The panel also stated it would not have hesitated to disbar Hall for ungovernability (see page 27 of this issue of the Benchers’ Bulletin).

Penalty

The panel ordered that Hall:

1. be disbarred; and

2. pay costs in the amount of $17,180.93.

NOTE: James Douglas Hall should not be confused with James (Jamie) A. Hall of Reed Pope LLP in Victoria.

 

Richard Craig Nielsen

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: September 5, 2001

Discipline hearing: May 15, 2007

Panel: Joost Blom, QC, Chair, Thelma O’Grady and Kathryn Berge, QC

Report issued: June 29, 2007 (2007 LSBC 35)

Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society and Garth McAlister for Richard Craig Nielsen

Facts

In 2004, Richard Craig Nielsen represented TS while Lawyer P represented GD, TS’s ex-wife, in matrimonial proceedings. Through the summer and fall of 2004 Nielsen corresponded frequently by email with Lawyer P as they negotiated a draft consent order for custody of and access to their clients’ son. Nielsen and Lawyer P exchanged five different versions of the draft order, including, excluding and varying provisions for joint custody, additional access and permission for a visit to India.

On November 9, 2004 Nielsen submitted a draft consent order with supporting affidavits of TS and GD to the BC Provincial Court for entry. Prior to submitting the TS affidavit, he altered the exhibit setting out the draft order being consented to by removing one page and substituting another without the access and joint custody provisions contained in the original exhibit.

Admission and penalty

Nielsen admitted that he altered the documents without his client’s consent and submitted them to the court as though they were genuine and that his actions constituted professional misconduct.

Nielsen stated his law practice had been very disorganized at the time of his misconduct. He had a day job witnessing mortgages, and worked on other files in the evening from his home. In this case, Nielsen did not have hard copies of earlier versions of TS’s affidavit in his file, and he had not recorded new instructions from his client. In preparing to file the affidavit, Nielsen realized the exhibit and draft order being filed were inconsistent. He thought he was correcting a problem by making the exhibit consistent with the draft order.

Nielsen further stated he did not make the changes to his client’s affidavit with any intention to mislead the court, or for any personal gain. Nielsen advised the panel that since the incident, he has put into practice the Law Society’s law office management advice. He no longer acts as a signing officer during the day, limits the number and types of cases he handles, and has developed mentoring relationships with senior legal aid lawyers.

The panel accepted Nielsen’s conditional admission and penalty proposed under Rule 4-22. Accordingly, the panel ordered that:

1. he be reprimanded;

2. he pay a fine of $10,000 and costs of $5,000, both within two years; and

3. his admission be recorded on his professional conduct record.

 

Douglas Warren Welder

Kelowna, BC

Called to the bar: May 12, 1981

Bencher review: January 19, 2007

Benchers: James D. Vilvang QC, Chair, Terrance E. La Liberté, QC, Jan Lindsay, Ken Dobell, Joost Blom, QC, Ronald S. Tindale, Kathryn Berge, QC, Dirk J. Sigalet QC and Leon Getz, QC

Report issued: June 8, 2007 (2007 LSBC 29)

Counsel: Brian McKinley for the Law Society and Alan R. Perry for Douglas Warren Welder

Background

In 2002, Douglas Warren Welder was found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to remit GST, PST and source deductions. The panel in that case fined him $2,500 and ordered that he provide proof on a quarterly basis that he had remitted all GST, PST and source deductions. He provided the reports but indicated he had not made all the required payments. As a result of his failure to pay, in 2005 Welder was again found guilty of professional misconduct and suspended for one year (report issued November 16, 2005: 2005 LSBC 49).

Decision

On an application for review of penalty, the Benchers concluded that the hearing panel erred by not taking into consideration Welder’s acknowledgement of his misconduct and the impact of the penalty, which would likely prevent him from resuming practice. Given the nature of the misconduct and the fact that it was the second such offence committed by Welder, the Benchers concluded that a suspension was warranted, but the one-year sentence imposed by the hearing panel was unduly harsh. They ordered that Welder be reprimanded; suspended for a period of three months to begin July 3; and pay costs of $2,450. They also ordered Welder be subject to the following conditions on his return to practice:

he must provide evidence, on a monthly basis, that he has remitted GST, PST and employee source deductions; and

he must provide information, as required by the Discipline Committee, to determine and ensure that the continued practice by the applicant poses no danger to the public interest.

Both of these conditions will continue until the Discipline Committee decides to remove them.