Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action

Michael Sheldon Golden

Burnaby, BC

Called to the bar: August 1, 1985

Discipline hearing: March 20, 2019

Panel: Lisa Hamilton, QC (chair); Paul Ruffell, Sandra Weafer

Decision issued: May 6, 2019 (2019 LSBC 15)

Counsel: Mandana Namazi for the Law Society; William MacLeod, QC, for Michael Sheldon Golden

FACTS AND DETERMINATION

In a family law matter, Michael Sheldon Golden was representing a husband in proceedings against the man’s wife.

After Golden had agreed to represent the husband, the wife visited Golden’s office with a friend, who had also been a client of Golden’s. The wife and her friend informed Golden that the wife owed the friend $200,000. Golden prepared a promissory note confirming the debt, as well as a power of attorney permitting the wife’s friend to sell the wife’s property on behalf of the wife in order to realize payment of the debt. While the wife was in his office, Golden served her with the action commenced by her husband.

The friend managed the sale of the house, paying the mortgage while awaiting the sale, paying for repairs and working with the realtor. The house sold, resulting in net proceeds of approximately $260,000. The friend asked Golden to handle the conveyance of the property. Golden opened a file in the wife’s name, and signed a declaration for land title purposes that he was the solicitor for the wife.

Golden took his fees of $1,200 from trust then, on the instructions of the husband, signed and released a cheque for $20,000 to a third party. Golden told the wife’s friend she would receive $124,967.39, not the $200,000 she was owed. The friend refused to accept that amount.

The panel found that Golden had committed professional misconduct by acting in a conflict of interest, failing to advise the friend about the sufficiency of the promissory note and the power of attorney to secure the debt owed to her, failing to make it clear to the wife that he was acting in the interests of the husband, and improperly withdrawing $20,000 held in trust on behalf of the wife.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered that there were multiple breaches of the duty of loyalty, as well as misconduct relating to poor quality of service, failures to ensure the wife understood that Golden was not protecting her interests and the improper withdrawal of trust funds. The panel also considered that Golden’s failure to recognize a conflict of interest eroded the friend’s trust in Golden, and possibly her trust in lawyers generally.

Golden maintained that no harm was done, but the panel disagreed. The friend has still not received the $200,000 she expected to receive pursuant to the promissory note despite her efforts and her own financial resources expended to ready a property for sale and sell it on behalf of the wife.

The panel considered that Golden has a prior professional record consisting of two conduct reviews and one set of recommendations of the Practice Standards Committee. It also took into consideration that there is no evidence that he acknowledges his misconduct and that he has not taken any remedial action to prevent any such conduct in the future.

The panel ordered that Golden:

  • pay a fine of $20,000; and
  • pay costs of $10,736.43.

2019 LSBC 15 Decision on Disciplinary Action