Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

Kevin John Groves

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: May 7, 2009

Discipline hearing: February 13, 2019

Panel: Sarah Westwood (chair); Ralston Alexander, QC; and Darlene Hammell

Decision issued: March 19, 2019 (2019 LSBC 09)

Counsel: Kathleen Bradley for the Law Society; David Taylor for Kevin John Groves

AGREED FACTS

Kevin John Groves represented the husband in a family law matter. While meeting with his client, Groves suggested obtaining the wife’s credit report. With the husband’s assistance, Groves impersonated the wife to submit an online request and obtain the credit report. Almost immediately, the wife phoned the client to advise him she had been made aware of an unauthorized credit report request, and that she intended to report the client to the RCMP, and Groves to the Law Society.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

Groves admitted that his actions constitute professional misconduct, but objected to the characterization of that conduct as knowingly dishonest and fraudulent. He argued that he did not know that private credit information is protected by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, and that immediately upon becoming aware of the prohibition he ceased his practice of seeking credit reports on opposing parties.

The hearing panel confirmed that Groves committed professional misconduct. The panel considered that Groves’s only prior conduct record was a referral to the Practice Standards Committee, and that referral concerned behaviour that occurred following the events that are the subject of this hearing. Further, that referral did not result from a citation or a referral from the Discipline Committee, and this citation was Groves’s first.

The Law Society sought a two-month suspension, arguing that the misbehaviour is very serious as it engages elements of deceit and lack of integrity. It further argued that, because Groves had been referred to the Practice Standards Committee on an unrelated matter, this case calls for progressive discipline. The panel found, however, that the penalty sought by the Law Society was not consistent with past decisions, specifically that progressive discipline was not engaged in these circumstances because the referral to practice standards did not originate with the Discipline Committee and was only in the referral stage at the time of these events.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel ordered that Groves:

  1. pay a fine of $8,000;
  2. enrol in and complete four hours of continuing professional development with a focus on ethical considerations, in addition to the annual CPD requirement that applies to all lawyers; and
  3. pay costs of $3,607.70.

2019 LSBC 09 Decision of the Hearing Panel