Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Facts and Determination Decision

Gerhardus Albertus Pyper

Surrey, BC
Called to the bar: December 9, 2002
Discipline hearing: October 27 to 29, 2015
Panel: Herman Van Ommen, QC, Chair, James Dorsey, QC and Dan Goodleaf
Decision issued: January 11, 2016 (2016 LSBC 01)
Counsel: Kieron Grady for the Law Society; Gerhardus Albertus Pyper on his own behalf

FACTS

On March 20, 2014, a panel of Benchers placed limits on Gerhardus Albertus Pyper’ s practice and ordered him to eliminate shortages in his trust accounts by April 22, 2014. On May 23, 2014, Pyper had not provided the necessary evidence to show he had eliminated the trust shortages. The panel ordered he be suspended from the practice of law. At the hearing Pyper was advised that he was suspended forthwith and he was sent letters notifying him of his suspension by both email and courier, which included a list of transactions he may or may not engage in.

Prior to his suspension, Pyper acted for a client in Ontario, a pharmacist who operated a pharmacy within a department store. When a corporation purchased the store, a dispute arose over ownership of client files. The corporation also filed a complaint against Pyper’ s client with the regulating body for pharmacy practice.

On May 26, 2014, Pyper signed and sent a letter in response to the corporation’ s request to discontinue their action against his client. Pyper said that, the week prior, he dictated the letter in which he stated that his client had agreed to the discontinuance of the action.

On June 13, 2014, Pyper received an email from his client with a draft letter she prepared to send to the regulating body. Pyper forwarded the email and draft letter to his assistant, who prepared a letter under the law corporation’ s letterhead. Pyper signed the letter on June 13, 2014 and instructed his assistant to send it to the college.

QUESTIONS OF JURISDICTION AND ALLEGED BIAS

At the commencement of the hearing, Pyper made a preliminary motion that the panel lacked jurisdiction to conduct the hearing. This appeared to be based on alleged unfairness in the process leading to his suspension or bias on the part of the Benchers that ordered the suspension. The panel dismissed the motion on the basis that it was a collateral attack on the prior proceeding where he was suspended, and Pyper was required to take the appeal and/or review procedures available to challenge the original proceeding.

Pyper also raised an allegation of “ institutional bias” against the Law Society on the basis that Law Society investigators and prosecutors were biased against him. The panel found there was no evidence that the Law Society staff had been biased against Pyper or that the issuance of the citation was motivated by bias or malice.

DETERMINATION

The question for determination was whether Pyper’ s actions in signing the two letters constitute the practice of law and therefore a breach of the suspension order.

Pyper said the first letter had been dictated prior to his suspension and that the case had been previously settled. The panel determined that his letter was a counter-offer to a prior offer to settle. The fact that it had been dictated prior to his suspension does not change the fact that he was not entitled to sign and send that letter on May 26, 2014.

With respect to the second letter sent on June 13, 2014, Pyper said his assistant had simply retyped the letter prepared by his client on his letterhead. Out of concern for his suspension, he asked his assistant to remove the designation “ Barrister & Solicitor” from his letterhead. During the cross-examination, it was shown that Pyper had sent a letter he used prior to his suspension that also did not contain the designation “ Barrister & Solicitor.” In addition, the reference to the law corporation had not been removed from the letter and the format was exactly the same as all his prior letters. The panel determined that his client was clearly seeking legal advice and Pyper was practising law by instructing the assistant to put the letter on his letterhead.

The panel found that Pyper’ s actions were a clear breach of an order and constitute professional misconduct. His conduct was also a breach of the Legal Profession Act, which prohibits the practice of law by persons not authorized to do so.

2016 LSBC 01 Decision on Facts and Determination