Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

 

Citation issued: June 2, 2021

Michael James Edwards

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.  On or about September 24, 2019, in relation to one or more of your client files numbered 17188, 12623, 17124, and 17183, you misappropriated or improperly withdrew or authorized the improper withdrawal of some or all of $2,354 in client trust funds, contrary to Rule 3-64 of the Law Society Rules.

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

2.  On or about September 24, 2019, in relation to one or both of your client files numbered 17124 and 17183, you failed to prepare and immediately deliver a bill to your clients before withdrawing trust funds for the payment of legal fees, contrary to Rule 3-65 of the Law Society Rules or section 69(1) of the Legal Profession Act, or both.

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

3.  On or about September 24, 2019, you withdrew or authorized the withdrawal of $2,600 of trust funds by way of electronic transfers and you did one or more of the following, contrary to Rule 3-64.1(2) of the Law Society Rules:

a)  failed to ensure that the electronic funds transfer system met the requirements for dual authentication set out in Rule 3-64.1(2)(a);

b)  disclosed your password or access code associated with the electronic funds transfer system to another person, and/or permitted another person to use your password or access code to gain such access, contrary to Rule 3-64.1(2)(b);

c)  failed to ensure that the electronic funds transfer system produced, no later than the close of the banking day immediately after the day on which the transfer was authorized, a confirmation in writing from the financial institution confirming that the data describing the details of the transfer and authorizing the financial institution to carry out the transfer were received, contrary to Rule 3-64.(1)(2)(c);

d)  failed to complete and sign a requisition in the prescribed form authorizing the transfer, before any data describing the details of the transfer or authorizing the financial institution to carry out the transfer was entered into the electronic funds transfer system, contrary to Rule 3-64.1(2)(e); and

e)  failed to retain in your records a copy of the required requisition or written confirmation from the financial institution, as required by Rule 3-64.1(2)(g).

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

4.  Between approximately June 2020 and May 2021, in the course of a Law Society investigation, you attempted to mislead the Law Society or to improperly obstruct or delay the investigation by providing information and records to the Law Society that you knew or ought to have known were false or misleading, by doing one or more of the following, contrary to one or more or more of Rule 3-5(7) of the Law Society Rules and rules 2.2-1 and 7.1-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia:

a)  representing to the Law Society in your letter dated August 27, 2020 that you were entitled to $2,600 in trust funds that were transferred to your general account on September 24, 2019 (the “Transfer”), on the basis that the funds were for the payment of outstanding invoices issued on five client matters where there were sufficient retainer funds held in trust to the credit of those clients at the time of the Transfer;

b)  representing to the Law Society in your letter dated August 27, 2020 that when the $2,600 in trust funds were repaid into your trust account on or about October 3, 2019, it was for the purpose of correcting a double payment of the firm’s invoices purportedly paid by the Transfer;

c)  on approximately August 27, 2020, providing an invoice to the Law Society for your client file numbered 17183, which was back-dated to September 24, 2019 (the “Back-dated Invoice”) rather than the date of the invoice sent to the client, which was September 30, 2019; and

d)  representing to the Law Society, including in letters dated August 27, 2020 and April 7, 2021, that the Back-dated Invoice had in fact been delivered to the client on September 24, 2019, prior to the Transfer.

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

5.  You made one or more of the following representations to the Law Society in your 2019 Trust Report that you knew or ought to have known were false or misleading:

a)  that your practice had maintained monthly trust reconciliations for the reporting period and that they were current (Question C6);

b)  that all withdrawals of trust funds from a pooled trust account were made by trust cheque or by electronic transfer using the requisition form approved by the Law Society (Question C16);

c)  that withdrawals from trust were only made when trust accounting records were current and sufficient funds were held to the credit of the client (Question C18); and

d)  that your practice had paid its payroll remittances in full and on time (Question A17).

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

6.  Between approximately May 2018 and January 2020, and in one or more of the 10 instances set out in Schedule “A”, you failed to prepare monthly trust reconciliations within 30 days of the effective dates of the reconciliations, contributing to a trust shortage of $30,000 not being corrected for over six months, contrary to Rule 3-73(5) of the Law Society Rules.

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

7.  Between approximately January 2017 and May 2021, you made employee payroll source deductions but failed to remit the payroll source deduction funds due to the Canada Revenue Agency in a timely way or at all, resulting in part in a judgment being rendered against you for arrears in the amount of $69,129.46 plus interest, contrary to rule 7.1-2 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

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