Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary, Agreed Statement of Facts and Admissions of Misconduct

Christopher Russell James Cook

Castlegar, BC

Called to the bar: August 1, 2006

Voluntary withdrawal: October 31, 2018

Admissions accepted by Discipline Committee: November 8, 2018

Counsel: Kathleen M. Bradley for the Law Society; Christopher Russell James Cook on his own behalf

FACTS

In the summer of 2015, Christopher Russell James Cook acted for a buyer of property that was jointly owned by a husband and wife (although the husband was deceased). The surviving owner had appointed a power of attorney to act on her behalf.

After filing the necessary paperwork with the Land Title Office, Cook realized the property included not just one lot, but two. The second lot had not been included in the transfer papers he had filed. Cook notified the notary acting on behalf of the seller, asking to have the seller or her attorney execute a transfer of the second lot. However, the seller had died, and the power of attorney expired with her death.

Cook then improperly filed certain forms with the Land Title Office. He also failed to advise the buyer and a second client, a bank, about the problems with the conveyance and the registration of the mortgage, and represented to the notary that he had witnessed the attorney’s signature on a form when he had not. Subsequently, the buyer obtained independent legal advice and executed a form extending the mortgage to the second lot. At the buyer’s request, Cook registered that form at the Land Title Office, and also consolidated both lots into one.

In May 2017, Cook told the bank that the mortgage had been extended to a second lot, and provided a copy of a registered extension of mortgage.

ADMISSIONS AND UNDERTAKINGS

Cook admitted that on three occasions he committed professional misconduct by causing forms to be filed with the Land Title Office that were purportedly executed by an individual with power of attorney for the seller when he knew or ought to have known that the power of attorney had expired, that the attorney had not executed the forms before Cook or at all, that Cook had not witnessed the attorney’s signature, and that Cook did not have the originally signed documents in his possession. The forms purported to transfer ownership from one joint tenant to another when both were deceased, and attached a statutory declaration that had been created for a different purpose.

Cook also admitted that he committed professional misconduct by representing to a notary acting for the seller that he had witnessed the attorney’s signature on a form when he had not.

In addition, Cook admitted that he committed professional misconduct by failing to honestly and candidly advise his clients (the buyer and the bank) of the status of the conveyance and the registration of a mortgage in favour of the bank; failing to promptly notify his clients of the error or omission; failing to recommend that his clients obtain independent legal advice; and failing to advise his clients that he may no longer be able to act for them.

Cook became a former member of the Law Society of British Columbia as of October 31, 2018, when he resigned his membership in the face of discipline.

The Discipline Committee accepted Cook’s admissions of professional misconduct and his undertaking that, for a period of six months commencing November 9, 2018, he will not:

  1. apply for reinstatement to the Law Society of British Columbia;
  2. apply for membership in any other law society without first advising the Law Society of BC in writing; or
  3. permit his name to appear on the letterhead of, or otherwise work in any capacity whatsoever for, any lawyer or law firm in BC, without obtaining the prior written consent of the Discipline Committee.

2018 LSBC Agreed Statement of Facts