Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Disciplinary Action Decision

JAMES LESLIE STRAITH

North Vancouver

Called to the bar: August 1, 1985

Discipline hearing: February 1, 2016

Panel: Herman Van Ommen, QC, Chair, Jasmin Z. Ahmad and John Lane

Decision issued: April 1, 2016 (2016 LSBC 13)

Counsel: Kieron Grady for the Law Society; James Leslie Straith on his own behalf

 

FACTS

In February 2014, two former clients made a complaint to the Law Society about James Leslie Straith’s handling of certain aspects of their file. On May 28, 2014, the Law Society sent a letter to Straith and AB, his co-counsel at the time of the complaint, asking them to respond separately and to provide documents and information to assist in the investigation of the complaint.

After several delays and deadline extensions, on May 13, 2015, the Law Society reviewed the information provided to date and concluded that documents important to the investigation were still missing. It requested delivery of specific documents by May 28.

By May 28, 2015, neither Straith nor AB had provided the requested information.

The Law Society gave two unsolicited extensions of time to Straith, moving the deadline to June 29, 2015.  Straith advised that he anticipated being able to respond by July 30, 2015, but he never did.

On September 30, 2015, the Law Society issued a citation against Straith alleging that he “failed to provide a full and substantive response promptly or at all to communications from the Law Society concerning its investigation.”

DETERMINATION

At the hearing, Straith did not deny that he had not fully responded to the Law Society’s request to produce documents including, in particular, email correspondence to and from and within his firm. He argued that he took steps to respond to that request by delegating the obligation to AB and, based on what AB told him, believed that a response had been provided. Straith claimed that those steps should be sufficient to vitiate a finding of professional misconduct.

The Law Society maintained that Straith’s response to its initial request was limited and that none of those responses resulted in the production of the requested documents.

The hearing panel found that Straith’s failure to provide the requested documents was exacerbated by the persistence of that failure, despite being given ample opportunity to respond. By the date of the hearing, approximately eight and one-half months after the initial request for information, Straith had still not produced the requested documents.

The panel determined that Straith had committed professional misconduct.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The hearing panel ordered that Straith:

  • pay a fine of $3,500;
  • pay costs of $2,472.50; and
  • produce all emails as requested in the May 13, 2015 letter within two weeks of the order.

2016 LSBC 13 Decision on Facts, Determination, Disciplinary Action and Costs