Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of a decision of the president on an application for an in-person hearing

Spencer Owen May

Richmond, BC

Called to the bar: May 18, 2007

Written submissions: October 19, 21 and 22, 2020

President: Craig Ferris, QC

Decision issued: November 4, 2020 (2020 LSBC 53)

Counsel: Michael Shirreff for the Law Society; William MacLeod, QC for Spencer Owen May

 

Spencer Owen May is the subject of a hearing scheduled for February 1 to 5, 2021. He applied for an order directing an in-person hearing, as opposed to a video-conferencing hearing.

A practice direction provided that, unless otherwise ordered, all hearings will be conducted virtually. In the context of the existing public health emergency, it is incumbent upon the Law Society to ensure that the circumstances are justified before taking the risks of conducting an in-person hearing. For the duration of the emergency, it is expected that in-person hearings will continue to be the exception and will need to be justified in the circumstances of the particular case.

May argued that conducting a hearing by video-conferencing is not provided by the Law Society Rules. He further argued that a hearing panel could not conduct a fair hearing through video-conferencing based on two points – first, the Law Society is holding other in-person hearings and, second, this case presents novel challenges.

The president found that jurisdiction to conduct hearings by video-conferencing is expressly confirmed by the Rules and dismissed May’ s position. Turning to the fairness issue, the simple fact that there have been other in-person hearings does not justify May’ s request for such a hearing in this case. The application contains nothing but generalities (assessment of credibility, conducting live testimony and cross-examination), which have been rejected by the courts and this tribunal. To justify the health risk, May would need to show something about this case that justifies taking that risk. This application does not meet that standard.

The president adjourned the application.

2020 LSBC 53 Report on an Application for In-Person Hearing