Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Benchers on Review

GARY RUSSELL VLUG

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: August 28, 1992

Bencher review: May 1 and June 10, 2015

Benchers: Kenneth Walker, QC, Chair, Haydn Acheson, Satwinder Bains, Pinder Cheema, QC, Jamie Maclaren and Elizabeth Rowbotham; A. Cameron Ward (did not participate in the decision)

Decision issued: December 31, 2015 (2015 LSBC 58)

Counsel: Carolyn Gulabsingh for the Law Society; Gary Russell Vlug on his own behalf

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel found that Gary Russell Vlug committed professional misconduct in respect of 11 allegations arising from three separate complaints, all by lawyers. The panel found that Vlug knowingly misrepresented facts in court, misled the Law Society, attached documents to an affidavit after it had been sworn, and acted with incivility in dealing with fellow lawyers.

The panel found Vlug’ s conduct was egregious and beneath the standards expected of members of the profession. It was of significant concern that Vlug failed to acknowledge his misconduct.

The panel determined that Vlug’ s conduct amounted to professional misconduct and ordered that he be suspended for six months and pay $20,000 in costs (facts and determination: 2014 LSBC 09; disciplinary action: 2014 LSBC 40; discipline digest: Winter 2014).

Vlug applied for a review of the decision. A stay of suspension was granted and extended pending appeal or further order of the court (2014 LSBC 48 and 2015 LSBC 08).

DECISION OF THE BENCHERS ON REVIEW

Vlug applied to introduce fresh evidence at the review. The Law Society opposed, arguing that it did not meet the fresh evidence test. The Benchers considered previous cases and the nature of the new evidence and dismissed the application (2015 LSBC 59).

The Benchers confirmed the hearing panel’ s findings of professional misconduct for seven of the 11 allegations in the citation.

Three of the allegations arose from one family law matter. The hearing panel had found that Vlug committed professional misconduct by preparing and filing court documents that he knew or ought to have known were improper and misleading.

The Benchers, however, found that there was an absence of specific and compelling evidence that Vlug knew his filings and statements were improper and misleading and reversed the hearing panel’ s findings of professional misconduct for these three allegations.

The Benchers were unable to reach a majority decision on one allegation of misleading the court and the Law Society where the hearing panel had rejected Vlug’ s evidence concerning a phone conversation. Three Benchers (Acheson, Cheema and Maclaren) would have upheld the hearing panel’ s finding that, on a balance of probabilities, Vlug’ s evidence was not credible. Three other Benchers (Walker, Bains and Rowbotham) would have reversed that decision, as they were not satisfied that the hearing panel properly considered all the evidence.

With respect to disciplinary action on the findings of professional misconduct, the Benchers ordered that Vlug:

  1. be suspended for seven weeks;
  2. take a remedial program in family law to the satisfaction of the Practice Standards Committee;
  3. pay costs of $5,000 plus disbursements for the review; and
  4. pay costs of $12,500 for the hearing.

Vlug has filed a Notice of Appeal to the BC Court of Appeal.

2015 LSBC 58 Decision of the Benchers on Review

2015 LSBC 59 Decision on Application to Introduce Fresh Evidence