Summary of Decision on Facts, Determination, Disciplinary Action and Costs
Called to the Bar: August 5, 1987
Discipline hearing: June 21, 2016
Panel: Elizabeth Rowbotham, Chair, Jasmin Ahmad and Robert Smith
Decision issued: September 2, 2016 (2016 LSBC 30)
Counsel: Carolyn Gulabsingh for the Law Society; Henry Wood, QC for Shirley Chu
In the course of investigating a complaint against Shirley Chu, the Law Society sent a letter to her on November 9, 2015 and requested a written response.
Chu did not respond, and the Law Society sent a follow-up letter on December 2, 2015 asking that she provide all requested material by December 16. The Law Society also reminded Chu of her obligation to reply promptly and completely and advised that her failure to respond may be referred to the Discipline Committee.
Chu emailed a legal assistant at the Law Society on December 10, 2015 stating she would respond to the request the following week. She did not do so.
A Law Society staff lawyer left Chu a voicemail message on December 17, 2015 asking her to return the call. Chu contacted the legal assistant the following day, who advised her to contact the staff lawyer on the next business day regarding the extension request.
The staff lawyer left voicemail messages on December 22 and December 24, 2015 asking Chu to return her calls. She did not do so.
The Law Society sent Chu a letter dated December 24, 2015, which asked her to respond fully by January 7, 2016 and stated that, if she did not do so, the matter would be referred to the Discipline Committee. Chu did not provide a written response by the deadline, and a citation was authorized and issued on January 14 and 19, 2016.
On April 19, 2016, Chu provided a substantive response to the Law Society as originally requested.
Chu testified that her initial failure to respond to the Law Society’s request was due to her immediate professional commitments to her clients. For the seven months prior to the request for a written response sent on November 9, 2015, Chu cooperated fully with the investigation and maintained open communication. After that date, substantive communication from Chu effectively ceased. The panel found that the circumstances of the failure to respond were not sufficient to rebut the prima facie evidence of misconduct. Chu admitted her conduct constituted professional misconduct.
The panel concluded that her failure to respond was a marked departure from the conduct the Law Society expects of lawyers and determined Chu committed professional misconduct.
The panel considered the context in which the failure took place and the subsequent delivery of her full response. It also considered her professional conduct record and her forthrightness at the hearing.
The panel ordered that Chu pay:
- a fine of $2,000; and
- costs of $1,276.79.