Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action


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: October 8, 2019

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

Decision issued: February 14, 2020 (2020 LSBC 08)

Counsel: Ilana Teicher for the Law Society; no one appearing on behalf of Seanna Michelle McKinley

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel found that Seanna Michelle 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).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered the Law Society’ s submission that the appropriate disciplinary action was disbarment. It reviewed previous discipline decisions, including McGuire v. Law Society of BC, 2007 BCCA 442, where the Court of Appeal confirmed that disbarment is the only remedy for deliberate misappropriation of trust funds, except in highly unusual circumstances.

McKinley’ s misappropriation of client trust funds was plainly intentional. She made 41 improper client trust account withdrawals totalling $49,000 and another 528 improper pooled trust account withdrawals totalling $334,593.77 over the course of a few years. Her behaviour was prolonged and reckless and is an example of the most severe type of professional misconduct. If not met with the Law Society’ s strongest message of condemnation and deterrence, it has the potential to do irreparable harm to public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.

The panel also considered McKinley’ s actions in facilitating the breach of a court order, misleading the Law Society, breaching undertakings, making misrepresentations to opposing counsel and failing to comply with trust accounting rules. Though not as serious as misappropriation, these discipline violations still constitute serious misconduct in and of themselves.

McKinley failed to participate in the disciplinary process, causing the Law Society to incur significant time and expense. There is no evidence to indicate that her misconduct was an aberration and unlikely to recur.

The panel ordered that McKinley:

  1. be disbarred; and
  2. pay $12,743.12 in costs and disbursements.

 

2020 LSBC 08 Decision on Disciplinary Action

2019 LSBC 20 Decision on Facts and Determination