Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts and Determination


Seanna Michelle McKinley

Kamloops, BC

Called to the bar: May 25, 2001

Administrative suspension: April 11, 2016

Ceased membership for non-payment of fees: January 1, 2017

Discipline hearing: April 3, 2019

Panel: Jamie Maclaren, QC (chair), Anita Dalakoti, John Waddell, QC

Decision issued: June 12, 2019 (2019 LSBC 20)

Counsel: Alison Kirby for the Law Society; No one appearing on behalf of Seanna Michelle McKinley

FACTS

Seanna Michelle McKinley was retained to represent a client in both a family matter involving the client’s separation from her husband and an estate matter in which the client was executor and both the client and the client’s husband claimed an interest. The client gave McKinley two cheques drawn from the estate, each in the amount of $49,000. McKinley deposited one of the cheques into her own trust account and the other into her firm’s trust account.

McKinley withdrew all of the $49,000 from her own trust account knowing that she had no entitlement to the funds and that the funds were subject to a non-disposition order, which was in breach of undertakings to transfer and hold the funds in an interest-bearing account. She falsely represented to opposing counsel and her client’s new counsel that she was continuing to hold the funds in an interest-bearing account and attempted to mislead the Law Society about her handling of the funds.

Further, McKinley misappropriated $334,593.77 by making withdrawals from her pooled trust account when her accounts were not current and/or she had not rendered a bill for the services. She used the funds to cover her operating and personal expenses. She later fabricated invoices and electronic fund transfer forms to hide her misconduct.

McKinley attempted to mislead the Law Society during the course of its investigation by creating or causing to be created 528 backdated bills, 447 backdated cover letters and 480 backdated electronic transfer forms and by falsely telling the Law Society that she did not operate her own trust account or have a separate accounting system and that she always billed prior to making withdrawals from trust.

McKinley failed to comply with trust accounting rules by improperly withdrawing funds from trust, failing to properly maintain client trust ledgers, failing to record withdrawals from trust, failing to perform monthly trust reconciliations, and failing to disclose the existence of her own trust account on annual trust reports.

DETERMINATION

The hearing panel found that McKinley committed professional misconduct by intentionally misappropriating client funds; facilitating the breach of a court order; breaching undertakings; making misrepresentations to other lawyers; attempting to mislead the Law Society; attempting to mislead the Law Society and/or improperly obstructing an audit; and failing to comply with her accounting obligations.

2019 LSBC 20 Decision on Facts and Determination