Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel


Rosario Cateno Di Bella

Victoria, BC

Called to the bar: September 10, 1980

Hearing date: June 12, 2019

Panel: Lindsay LeBlanc, chair; Jeevyn Dhaliwal; Mark Rushton

Decision issued: September 5, 2019 (2019 LSBC 32)

Counsel: Henry C. Wood, QC, for the Law Society; Craig P. Dennis, QC, for Rosario Cateno Di Bella

AGREED FACTS

In 2014 multiple complaints about Rosario Cateno Di Bella’ s conduct led to a practice review, which resulted in recommendations aimed at improving file organization and timely communication with clients. Further subsequent complaints led to another practice review, which revealed Di Bella had more than 270 active files, and found a repetitive pattern of delay in communicating. In November 2016 Di Bella agreed to an undertaking not to take on new matters. In 2017 he opened 33 new files, and he failed to list these in audit documents submitted to the Law Society.

In September 2017 Di Bella was retained to pursue a committeeship for a client’ s ailing mother. The client’ s mother had suffered a stroke that left her unable to look after her affairs, and the client expressed some urgency due to concern that the mother’ s estranged husband was taking advantage because there was no power of attorney in place. The mother and her estranged husband still shared a bank account, and the estranged husband was still on title to the couple’ s house. Di Bella failed to respond to numerous communications, or responded without answering questions about the status of the file. In March 2018 Di Bella told the client he was too busy to help her and offered to find alternate counsel. He failed to forward contact information regarding other counsel, failed to confirm that he was no longer acting and took no steps to transfer the file. Another lawyer phoned Di Bella on April 25, 2018 and did not receive a response until May 10, 2018. The client made a complaint to the Law Society, and after the Law Society contacted Di Bella, the contents of the file were delivered to the other lawyer.

ADMISSION AND DETERMINATION

The panel accepted Di Bella’ s admission that he committed professional misconduct. In determining the appropriate disciplinary action, the panel considered Di Bella’ s practice reviews and subsequent limitations on his practice. The panel also considered an extensive record of professional service. It considered the impact Di Bella’ s conduct had on the client, but did not find that Di Bella was motivated by a concern for revenue.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel ordered that Di Bella:

  • be suspended for two months commencing October 1, 2019; and
  • pay costs of $9,000.

2019 LSBC 32 Decision of the Hearing Panel