Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts, Determination and Disciplinary Action

SUMIT AHUJA

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: April 15, 2011

Discipline hearing: September 6, 2017

Panel: Herman Van Ommen, QC, Chair, Dennis J. Day and Gillian M. Dougans

Decision issued: October 31, 2017 (2017 LSBC 39)

Counsel: Carolyn Gulabsingh for the Law Society; Henry Wood, QC for Sumit Ahuja

FACTS AND DETERMINATION

Sumit Ahuja was retained by his client to provide services for a family matter. His client’ s husband had already scheduled a summary trial application seeking a divorce, joint parenting responsibility, child support, a reduction of retroactive child support owed and a division of family assets. Approximately two weeks before the trial, Ahuja called opposing counsel and asked for an adjournment. Opposing counsel refused.

Opposing counsel sent an email a few days before the scheduled trial to ask if Ahuja’ s client agrees to the divorce order to be made on the trial date. Ahuja emailed his client and informed her that her husband wishes to proceed with the divorce but the judge may not grant it. Ahuja’ s client asked him to do everything he can to stop the divorce on the trial date.

Ahuja emailed opposing counsel stating that he wishes to adjourn the summary trial and opposing counsel can proceed with the application for divorce. He said his client will not oppose the divorce order. Ahuja did not attend the summary trial. The judge granted the divorce order and adjourned the remaining issues.

Ahuja advised his client that she could appeal the divorce order but he did not think the appeal had any merit. His client filed a complaint with Law Society.

When contacted by the Law Society, Ahuja said he knew he would not be available for the hearing and advised his client of this, but did not have notes of this discussion. He said his client agreed to keep the trial date because another lawyer would take over the file when she returned from maternity leave, but when she returned, she advised Ahuja she would not take over the file.

The hearing panel found that Ahuja failed to advise his client he would not attend the trial; failed to follow his client’ s clear instructions to oppose the application for a divorce order and instead, advised opposing counsel his client did not oppose; and failed to tell his client of his failure to attend court or of his advice to opposing counsel that she did not oppose the divorce. The panel found Ahuja committed professional misconduct.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered Ahuja’ s professional conduct record, which showed challenges in client communication and integrity. It was concerned with Ahuja’ s lack of candour in the matter and determined his conduct to be more serious than a quality of service issue. The panel also considered the impact on his client, his acknowledgement of the misconduct and remedial steps taken, and sanctions in similar cases.

The panel ordered that Ahuja

  1. Be suspended for one month; and
  2. pay costs of $5,851.43 to the Law Society.

2017 LSBC 39 Decision on Facts, Determination and Disciplinary Action