Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts and Determination


Daniel Bruce Geller

West Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: May 15, 1974

Discipline hearing: July 23, 24 and 25, 2018

Panel: Jennifer Chow, QC (chair); Eric V. Gottardi, Lance Ollenberger

Decision issued: December 27, 2018 (2018 LSBC 40)

Counsel: Michael Shirreff and Elizabeth Allan for the Law Society; Daniel Bruce Geller on his own behalf

FACTS

Daniel Bruce Geller had acted as a criminal defence lawyer in British Columbia for an individual on multiple occasions over the years. In March 2015 the individual was arrested in Whitehorse, Yukon. Geller had practised law in Yukon from time to time, having been a member of the Law Society of Yukon or granted permission to practise law on a case-by-case basis. At the time of the arrest, Geller was suspended by the Yukon Law Society from practising law in that jurisdiction.

The individual was detained at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In support of his request to have himself added to the individual’ s telephone contact list, Geller told correctional facility staff that he was the individual’ s lawyer. In the following weeks and months Geller spoke with the individual on several occasions.

Geller also called several institutions in Yukon in an attempt to seek help for the individual. He contacted the Law Society of Yukon, saying he was having trouble getting representation for his former client and seeking to have legal aid counsel appointed. Geller also called the Crown to inquire about charges and bail, stating that he would not be acting for the individual. Geller called the federal prosecutor in Yukon asking for assistance, saying he was concerned for the safety of his former client and had been unable to get him representation.

Geller arranged with the individual for a payment of $5,000 to be made to Geller. Geller met with the individual’ s girlfriend, who provided him with a $5,000 bank draft. Geller deposited the draft in his general account.

Geller visited the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, identifying himself as the individual’ s lawyer. Geller advised the individual that he was there as a “ friend” and that he was not able to practise law in Yukon.

DETERMINATION

The panel found that in making phone calls to the Crown, the Yukon Legal Services Society and the Yukon Law Society he was simply trying to get help for a former client, but that when he advised the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to add his name to the inmate phone list as the individual’ s counsel, Geller held himself out as counsel for the individual.

The panel found that, whether Geller was giving specific advice about the individual’ s right to silence or more general advice about his situation in jail, he was giving legal advice in relation to the issues the individual was facing in Yukon.

Geller maintained at various times that the $5,000 payment may have been for past bills owing, or that it was not for legal services rendered in Yukon since Geller was in BC at the time of his phone conversations. The panel found Geller’ s evidence on this point confusing and contradictory and found that Geller did accept a retainer for legal services in relation to the Yukon legal matter.

Geller maintained that, during his prison visit, he was not representing the individual but was helping him with his situation in jail. The panel found this distinction overly narrow and found that meeting with a client, negotiating for greater safety protocols to be put in place and counselling the individual in relation to his rights as a prisoner constituted an unauthorized practice of law.

The panel found that Geller committed a breach of the Law Society Rules, but that his conduct fell short of that required to support a finding of professional misconduct.

2018 LSBC 40 Decision on Facts and Determination - Notice of Review filed