Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

 

Citation issued: February 2, 2018

Seanna Michelle McKinley

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 the course of representing your client DM (Client No. [number]) in family and estate litigation matters, you did one or more of the following:

(a)  between approximately April 2014 and July 2014, you misappropriated some or all of $49,000 of the $98,000 (the “Trust Funds”) received in trust from your client, or improperly withdrew some or all of the $49,000 from your trust account contrary to one or both of Rule 3-56 and Rule 3-57(7) of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-64 and Rule 3-65(7)];

(b)  between approximately April 2014 and July 2014, you withdrew some or all of $49,000 of the Trust Funds from your trust account when you knew or ought to have known that a court order dated March 18, 2014 restrained and enjoined your client from disposing of, encumbering, assigning, or in any similar manner dealing with the Trust Funds;

(c)  between approximately April 2014 and September 2014, you breached an undertaking you gave to opposing counsel on or about April 4, 2014 to hold $49,000 in a separate interest bearing account pending agreement or court order, contrary to rule 7.2-11 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia (the “BC Code”);

(d)  on or about April 30, 2014, you misrepresented to opposing counsel the circumstances surrounding your receipt and handling of the Trust Funds;

(e)  between approximately April 2014 and September 2014, you breached an undertaking or failed to honour a commitment you gave to opposing counsel on or about April 30, 2014 to transfer the balance of the Trust Funds into the same separate interest bearing account as the first $49,000 and not to use those funds as a retainer, contrary to one or both of rule 7.2-11 or rule 2.2-1 of the BC Code;

(f)  in July 2014, you represented to your client’s new counsel that you would continue to hold the Trust Funds in your trust account when you knew that this representation was not true;

(g)  between May 2015 and December 2015, in the course of a Law Society investigation:

i.  you attempted to mislead the Law Society or improperly obstruct or delay the investigation by providing false or misleading information and records concerning the circumstances of your receipt and handling of the Trust Funds, contrary to one or both of Rule 3-5(6) of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-5(7)] or rule 7.1-1 of the BC Code or both;

(ii)  in the alternative, you provided information and records to the Law Society that you knew or ought to have known were false or misleading.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.

2.  Between approximately July 2012 and July 2014, you misappropriated client funds from your trust account on some or all of 528 occasions identified in Schedule A, or you improperly withdrew funds from your trust account on some or all of 528 occasions identified in Schedule A, when your records were not current or you did not first prepare and immediately deliver a bill, or both, contrary to Rules 3-56(1.2) and 3-57(2) of the Law Society Rules [now Rules 3-64(3) and 3-65].

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.

3.  Between approximately July 2014 and March 2015, in connection with a Law Society compliance audit, you attempted to mislead the Law Society or improperly obstruct the audit, or provided information and records that you knew or ought to have known were false or misleading, by doing one or more of the following:

(a)  you created and produced, or caused to be created and produced, some or all of the 528 backdated bills and 447 backdated cover letters particularized in Schedule A, when no such bills or cover letters had been prepared and delivered as purported;

(b)  you created and produced, or caused to be created and produced, some or all of 480 backdated Electronic Transfer Forms, when no such documents had been prepared as purported;

(c)  you represented that you did not have a trust account in operation when you knew or ought to have known that you did;

(d)  you represented that you did not have a separate accounting system from Webber Weiser McKinley & Kay when you knew or ought to have known that you did;

(e)  you represented that you always billed your clients prior to transferring funds from your trust account, when you knew or ought to have known that this was not true.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.

4.  Between approximately January 1, 2012 and June 22, 2015, you failed to comply with your accounting obligations under Part 3 Division 7 of the Law Society Rules and in particular:

(a)  in some or all of 529 instances, you improperly withdrew trust funds by way of touch tone transfers or internet transfers to your general account, contrary to Rules 3-56(1.3), (3) and (3.1) of the Law Society Rules [now Rules 3-64(4), (6) and (7)];

(b)  you failed to maintain trust ledgers for each client showing all trust funds received and disbursed and the unexpended balance, contrary to Rule 3-60(b) of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-68(b)];

(c)  you failed to record trust transactions promptly and in any event not more than seven days after a trust transaction, contrary to Rule 3-63 of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-72];

(d)  you failed to perform monthly trust reconciliations within 30 days after the effective date of the reconciliation, contrary to Rule 3-65 of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-73];

(e)  you failed to disclose your CIBC trust account No. [number] on your 2013 and 2014 trust reports, contrary to Rule 3-72 of the Law Society Rules [now Rule 3-79].

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct or breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.