Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of a decision on disciplinary action

Peter Darren Steven Hart

Called to the bar: May 20, 1994

Hearing date: February 3, 2021

Panel: Lindsay R. LeBlanc, chair, Thelma Siglos and Thomas L. Spraggs

Decision issued: July 20, 2021 (2021 LSBC 29)

Counsel: Alison Kirby for the Law Society; J.M. Peter Firestone for Peter Darren Steven Hart

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel found that Peter Darren Steven Hart committed professional misconduct by misappropriating $4,000 in trust funds that he paid into a lending company he owned and controlled, as well as by acting in a conflict of interest when his lending company borrowed or received a total of $531,000 from his clients and then loaned those funds to his law firm. He also breached the Law Society’s rules when he failed to notify the Executive Director of two unsatisfied monetary judgments against him (2020 LSBC 51).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The Law Society submitted that Hart’s misconduct is so egregious that an order of disbarment is appropriate. Hart submitted that the facts of this case do not rise to the level where the need to protect the public requires disbarment and the appropriate discipline is a suspension of four to five months.

The panel considered the seriousness of misappropriating clients’ funds, the intentional and self-serving nature of the conflict of interest and the less serious conduct of breaching the Rules. The panel found that Hart’s actions undermined the public’s confidence in the legal profession and that the character references submitted in support of Hart could not negate the seriousness of the conduct.

The panel found no exceptional circumstances that would require a departure from the general rule that disbarment follows a finding of misappropriation of trust funds.  The panel further found there was no reasonable belief that the funds could be withdrawn and used to fund Hart’s legal practice and concluded disbarment was necessary to ensure the public continues to have confidence in the rules regulating the legal profession.

The panel ordered that Hart:

  1. be disbarred; and
  2. pay costs and disbursements of $17,396.70.

2021 LSBC 29 Decision on Disciplinary Action