Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel on Application for Enrolment

Applicant 12

Hearing: November 19 and 20, 2018

Panel: Jasmin Ahmad, chair; Gavin Hume, QC; and Lance Ollenberger

Decision issued: February 4, 2019 (2019 LSBC 03)

Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society; Michael Shirreff and Jennifer Crosman for Applicant 12

BACKGROUND

Applicant 12 indicated on his application for enrolment in the Law Society Admission Program that he had been charged with a criminal offence and there was an outstanding civil action against him. He also indicated that he had no medical condition that was likely to impair his ability to function as an articled student.

The criminal charge and civil action stem from an incident relating to a planned meeting at a restaurant with family members of the applicant and a business partner of the applicant’s aunt. The applicant was driving his father and two friends to the meeting. As they neared the restaurant, the applicant’s father saw the aunt’s business partner leave the restaurant, and urged the applicant to follow him. A car chase ensued, which ended with the applicant hitting the individual’s car, and the applicant’s car coming to rest in a ditch. The applicant was charged with operating a motor vehicle in a manner that was dangerous to the public, committing an assault, using a weapon and in particular a motor vehicle, and uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was fined $2,000 and prohibited from driving a vehicle for one year. The aunt’s business partner commenced a civil claim for damages.

Responding to the Law Society’s further inquiries about his medical fitness, the applicant submitted a medical report and agreed to an independent medical examination. These indicated that the applicant had major depression that was currently in remission as a result of medical treatment; that he has ADHD, again controlled with medication; and that he has a substance abuse disorder with respect to alcohol, also in remission.

The Law Society subsequently was advised of a further incident. By his own account, the applicant had consumed four drinks over dinner with friends at a restaurant. A restaurant employee notified the police that an intoxicated driver had left the restaurant. The applicant was stopped by police and issued an immediate roadside prohibition. The roadside prohibition was overturned on review.

In deciding whether the applicant should be permitted to enrol in the Admission Program as an articled student, the panel considered several matters.

Since the incident that gave rise to the criminal charges and the civil action, the applicant has successfully completed his education, engaged in meaningful volunteer work, and thought carefully about his actions. The incident demonstrates bad judgment but is not, in isolation, determinative of the applicant’s character. The panel compared this incident with cases in which other applicants have a more significant serious and prolonged criminal history and nonetheless were considered to be of sufficient good character to enrol in the Admission Program.

With regard to the roadside prohibition, the applicant was the designated driver and drinking in those circumstances revealed a lack of judgment. However, that lack of judgment was not sufficient for the panel to conclude that he lacked the character required by section 19 of the Legal Profession Act, which states that no person may be enrolled as an articled student unless the Benchers are satisfied that the person is of good character and repute and is fit to become a barrister and a solicitor of the Supreme Court.

The applicant believes that his answer to the medical fitness question on his application for admission is correct on the basis that, as long as he was medicated, his then-existing medical conditions were not “reasonably likely to impair (his) ability to function as an articled student.” The Law Society is entitled to expect that applicants will answer all questions candidly and truthfully. However, the panel accepted his explanation as the question is open to that possible interpretation.

The panel also heard from a lawyer who is currently engaging the applicant in a volunteer capacity and has expressed his willingness to employ the applicant as an articled student. The prospective principal said that he was impressed with the applicant’s hard work and attention to detail and that, in his view, the incident involving the criminal charges and civil action do not reflect how the applicant would react as a student or lawyer.

DECISION

The panel concluded that the applicant is fit to be enrolled in the Law Society Admission Program as an articled student, with certain conditions. These include that he continue treatment and counselling for the medical issues outlined in the medical reports; that he be monitored by a registered psychiatrist; that he submit a further report to the Law Society at the end of his articling term and prior to applying for call and admission to the profession; and that he instruct his treating physicians and/or his supervising psychiatrist to report to the Law Society any relapse or material non-compliance with his treatment plans.

2019 LSBC 03 Decision on Application for Enrolment