July 27, 2023

Vancouver lawyer Justin G. Kates has been suspended for two months for allegations of misconduct related to his representation of a corporate entity.

The Law Society’s citation alleged that Kates permitted nearly $9.5 million to be paid into and withdrawn from his firm’s trust accounts without providing legal services directly related to the trust transactions, and without making reasonable inquiries about the circumstances of the trust transactions or making a record of the results of any inquiries made. The Law Society citation further alleged that Kates circumvented, or helped his client to circumvent, a bank’s refusal to permit approximately USD $6.4 million to be transferred from the client’s bank account to the United States, when Kates ought to have known there were questions or concerns about the transfer of the funds.

The citation also alleged that Kates failed to honor trust conditions or to ensure compliance with escrow terms when he released funds from the firm’s trust account and Kates failed to take reasonable steps to verify client identities or obtain and record the requisite client identification information. Finally, the citation alleged that Kates provided responses to a Law Society auditor that he ought to have known could be misleading or incomplete.

At the hearing, by way of a joint submission pursuant to Rule 5-6.5 of the Law Society Rules, Kates made substantial admissions in an agreed statement of facts, admitted to discipline violations concerning all allegations in the citation, and consented to a two-month suspension. The hearing panel determined that discipline violations had been made out in relation to all allegations of the citation and accepted the joint two-month suspension. The hearing panel ordered the suspension to commence on July 28, 2023.

The hearing panel’s reasons can be found here.