Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

 

Citation issued: June 21, 2017

Stephen John Bronstein

Citations are authorized by the Law Society of BC's Discipline Committee and list allegations against a lawyer that will be considered at a discipline hearing. Please note that allegations in a citation are unproven until a discipline hearing panel has determined their validity.

Nature of conduct to be inquired into:

1.  In or around 2008, you failed to properly investigate or otherwise exercise due diligence regarding the background, qualifications and suitability of IJ prior to employing him to work with and have unsupervised access to your clients, contrary to Chapter 3, Rule 3, Chapter 4, Rule 6, and Chapter 12, Rules 1 and 2 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct pursuant to s. 38(4)(b) of the Legal Profession Act.

2.  Between March 2007 and January 2014, you failed to maintain personal control and management over your office, contrary to: (i) Chapter 3, Rules 3 and 5, and Chapter 12, Rule 1 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force; and (ii) rules 3.1-2, 3.2-1, 6.1-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or incompetent performance of duties pursuant to s. 38(4)(b) of the Legal Profession Act.

3.  Between March 2007 and January 2014, in the course of representing clients in relation to Indian residential school claims, you failed to serve your clients in a conscientious, diligent, and efficient manner so as to provide the quality of service at least equal to that which would be expected of a competent lawyer in a similar situation, contrary to: (i) Chapter 3, Rules 3 and 5, and Chapter 12, Rules 1 and 2 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force; and (ii) rule 3.2-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia. In particular:

(a)  you failed to properly document important communications regarding legal matters, including contact and attempted contact with or from clients, and failed to direct staff to do the same;
(b)  you failed to maintain office staff and facilities adequate to your practice;
(c)  you failed to answer communications that required a reply within a reasonable time;
(d)  in relation to one or more of the 17 clients identified in Appendix A, you improperly delegated duties to non-lawyers by allowing them to do one or more of the following:

(i)  explain the Contingency Fee Agreement to clients, expressly or impliedly advise the clients to sign, and take the clients’ signature on the same,
(ii)  assess the merits and aspects of clients’ claims within the context of the Independent Assessment Process applications, and
(iii)  assess the relevance of documentary evidence for the purpose of determining what documents should be brought to the attention of lawyers representing clients,

(e)  in relation to one or more of the 17 clients identified in Appendix A, you failed to routinely inform and consult with the client, obtain instructions from the client, and give the client as much control as appropriate on the direction of the client’s case;
(f)  in relation to one or more of the 17 clients identified in Appendix A, upon receiving medical and other documents to support a client’s claim, you failed to ensure those documents were reviewed by a lawyer in a timely manner;
(g)  in relation to one or more of the 17 clients identified in Appendix A, you failed to advance clients’ claims in a timely manner, including failing to promptly certify clients’ claims, promptly obtain a hearing date, or respond appropriately to determinations that clients were not eligible for the Negotiated Settlement Process;
(h)  in relation to PS, you:

(i)  failed to take adequate steps to determine if PS was entitled to an expedited process;
(ii)  unnecessarily certified and filed PS’ claim twice, thereby creating a risk that his claim could be compromised; and
(iii)  failed to provide some or all of the settlement proceeds to PS in a timely manner;

(i)  you failed to advise SI of legal remedies available and deadlines applicable to her.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct pursuant to s. 38(4)(b) of the Legal Profession Act.

4.  Between November 2009 and August 2012, you failed to adequately address, respond to or investigate complaints made about your employee, IJ, including that IJ demanded payment of money from clients without justification, demands which were sometimes accompanied with threats, contrary to Chapter 2, Rule 1, Chapter 3, Rule 3, Chapter 4, Rule 6, and Chapter 12, Rule 1 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct pursuant to s. 38(4b) of the Legal Profession Act.

5.  Between approximately September 2008 and October 2011, in the course of representing some or all of 17 clients identified in Appendix A, you certified by signing Independent Assessment Process application forms and stated in the certification that you had reviewed the completed application with your client when in fact you had not done so, contrary to Chapter 1, Rule 2(3) and Chapter 2, Rule 1 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or incompetent performance of duties pursuant to s. 38(4)(b) of the Legal Profession Act.

6.  Between approximately September 2008 and October 2011, in the course of representing some or all of the 17 clients identified in Appendix A, you appended, or directed your staff to append, declarations to Independent Assessment Process applications which stated “Where someone helped me with the Application, that person has read to me everything they wrote and I confirm it is true” that were signed by the clients prior to the applications being completed and when the applications had been prepared by you or your staff and not read to the client, contrary to Chapter 1, Rule 2(3) and Chapter 2, Rule 1 of the Professional Conduct Handbook then in force.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or incompetent performance of duties, pursuant to s. 38(4)(b) of the Legal Profession Act.

APPENDIX A 

1. LA
2. TA
3. GE
4. RE
5. TE
6. JK
7. JJ
8. DL
9. IM
10. SM
11. JP
12. VQ
13. HS
14. JW
15. SI
16. PS
17. IM