Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: August 11, 2006

Written materials: December 13, 2018

Panel: Gavin Hume, QC, chair; Clarence Bolt; and Geoffrey McDonald

Decision issued: March 18, 2019 (2019 LSBC 08)

Counsel: Alison Kirby for the Law Society; Craig Jones, QC, for Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota

AGREED FACTS

Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota represented the husband in a family law matter. Under the terms of a settlement, the wife’s interest in the matrimonial home was to be transferred to his client in exchange for a payment to the wife and payout of various charges, including two mortgages registered against the property.

Sahota received the transfer documents on his undertaking to attend to the discharge of the mortgages and to provide opposing counsel, within five business days of closing, copies of letters, cheques, payout statements and evidence of delivery or receipt of payout cheques to the financial institution holding the mortgages.

Sahota was also to obtain discharges from the financial institution in a timely manner and, immediately upon receipt of the discharges, register the discharges at the Land Title Office. Sahota was required to register a new mortgage in favour of the financial institution as part of the transfer of the property to the client.

Sahota’s conveyancer prepared a letter with undertakings for opposing counsel that were not applicable to the transfer. The conveyancer also prepared a trust cheque. The letter and the trust cheque were set aside for Sahota’s review. Sahota did not review the letter or the trust cheque and instructed his staff to forward the letter and trust cheque to opposing counsel. Opposing counsel sent a letter rejecting the incorrect undertaking conditions.

Sahota filed the Form A Transfer but did not register the discharges of the mortgages. That same day, the conveyancer drafted a new letter, incorrectly dated, advising that the trust funds previously sent could be released on a number of undertakings. These undertakings were the same inapplicable ones sent in the previous letter and rejected by opposing counsel. Sahota did not review the letter or the undertakings and sent it to opposing counsel unsigned.

Sahota did not respond to multiple attempts by opposing counsel to contact him regarding the discharges and the documents required in the undertakings.

Nearly three months later, Sahota registered the discharges of the mortgages. The new mortgage was not registered.

The client sold the property to a third party. Sahota did not handle its purchase and sale. The new mortgage was not registered at that time but was, nonetheless, paid out.

Eleven months later, Sahota provided opposing counsel with copies of the letters and cheques sent to the financial institution, but did not convey to opposing counsel the payout statements required by the undertaking.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

The hearing panel accepted Sahota’s admission that he failed to honour one or more of the trust conditions imposed by opposing counsel; that he failed to answer with reasonable promptness some or all of the communications from opposing counsel that required a response; that he failed to serve his client in a competent, timely, conscientious, diligent and efficient way so as to provide a quality of service at least equal to that which would be generally expected of a competent lawyer in a like situation, and/or failed to properly supervise his staff; and that he failed to honour one or more trust conditions imposed by the financial institution in its instructions.

In considering whether to accept the proposed disciplinary action, the panel considered that Sahota had previously been found to have committed professional misconduct in managing financial aspects of his practice, particularly in real estate transactions, and that following a review board decision he was suspended for three months and prohibited from engaging in any capacity with files involving the purchase, sale of financing of real estate until relieved of that condition by the Practice Standards Committee.

The panel considered the proposed one-month suspension to be at the low end of the range of a reasonable and fair disposition, given that the misconduct was serious and considering Sahota’s conduct history. However, the panel also considered that, as long as the one-month suspension is not concurrent but consecutive to the previously ordered three-month suspension, the proposed disciplinary action is within the range of reasonable dispositions. The panel concluded that a one-month suspension carries weight only when accompanied by an order identical to that ordered resulting from Sahota’s previous discipline case, that he be prohibited from practising in the area of real estate law.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel ordered that Sahota:

  1. be suspended from the practice of law for one month commencing either April 1, 2019 or on the first day after the conclusion of the suspension previously ordered, whichever is later; and
  2. be prohibited from engaging in any capacity with files involving the purchase, sale or financing of real estate until relieved of this condition by the Discipline Committee.

2019 LSBC 08 Decision of the Hearing Panel - Suspension start extended to June 6, 2019 under Rule 5-12