Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts and Determination


Crystal Irene Buchan

Victoria, BC

Called to the bar: May 15, 1992

Discipline hearing: April 24, 2018

Panel: Jennifer Chow, QC (chair); John Lane; Bruce LeRose, QC

Decision issued: May 22, 2019 (2019 LSBC 18)

Counsel: Tara McPhail for the Law Society; Peter Firestone for Crystal Irene Buchan

FACTS

In November 2016 Crystal Irene Buchan was retained to represent a client who had divorced her spouse in 1992 by order of the Superior Court of Quebec. Significant arrears in spousal support were outstanding. The parties reached a settlement of all outstanding issues, including an agreement to execute a consent order to vary the Quebec divorce order. Opposing counsel sent Buchan draft settlement documents, including a draft consent order, a mutual spousal support release and a final release of all claims. Opposing counsel also sent Buchan his client’s personal cheque for $110,000, on Buchan’s undertaking not to release or deposit the money until Buchan’s client had executed the releases and Buchan had approved the consent order and returned the settlement documents.

Buchan accepted the undertaking and indicated that her client agreed to the settlement documents, on the condition that her client’s former spouse agree to four specific changes. Opposing counsel provided Buchan with revised settlement documents reflecting the requested changes.

Buchan’s client’s Quebec counsel then requested the addition of a tax indemnity provision. Buchan forwarded the request to opposing counsel, who responded that the parties had already entered a binding agreement.

Buchan’s client did not execute the settlement documents, and Buchan did not approve or sign the consent order. After Buchan did not reply to several communications from opposing counsel, opposing counsel sought and received an order from the Supreme Court of BC that the parties had entered a binding and enforceable agreement. Opposing counsel sent the draft order to Buchan for her approval and return. Buchan did not reply, nor did she reply to several subsequent communications.

A Supreme Court of BC registrar determined that the order confirming a binding agreement was appropriately drafted, and granted costs in favour of opposing counsel’s client.

Buchan still did not approve and sign the consent order. Opposing counsel sent Buchan a proposal that would allow her to deposit his client’s $110,000 cheque. Buchan was to forward to the opposing counsel a cheque in the amount of costs ordered by the court to opposing counsel and, when they were available, the settlement documents executed by Buchan’s client.

Buchan deposited $110,000 into trust, provided opposing counsel with a cheque in the amount of the ordered costs, and asked opposing counsel if she could release the remainder of the settlement funds to her client. Opposing counsel responded that his client insisted that the settlement documents be signed and returned, and the settlement order be approved and returned. Despite multiple requests, Buchan still did not deliver executed settlement documents to opposing counsel.

Opposing counsel complained to the Law Society. In December 2017 Buchan provided opposing counsel with executed settlement documents, including the consent order, and released the settlement funds to her client.

DETERMINATION

The panel found that Buchan committed professional misconduct by failing to sign an appropriately drafted consent order promptly, failing to sign an appropriately drafted court order promptly, and failing to answer with reasonable promptness some or all of the communications from opposing counsel.

2019 LSBC 18 Decision on Facts and Determination