Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Decision of the hearing panel on facts and determination

Michael Anthony Newcombe

Kelowna, BC

Called to the bar: September 25, 1987

Hearing date: May 26, 2021

Decision issued: September 21, 2021 (2021 LSBC 38)

Panel: Thomas L. Spraggs, Chair, Clarence Bolt and David Layton, QC

Counsel: Barbara Lohmann for the Law Society; Grant J. Gray for Michael Anthony Newcombe

FACTS

Michael Anthony Newcombe was required to attend a conduct review because he had failed to notify the Law Society’s executive director of three unsatisfied monetary judgments and his proposal for satisfying them. He acknowledged his breach of the rules, stated he would not transgress this rule again, and he said he understood the potential consequences of any future failure to comply. The Conduct Review Subcommittee recommended the Discipline Committee accept the conduct review as an appropriate disciplinary action and take no further steps, given his acknowledgement of his misconduct.

Approximately 18 months after the conduct review, a bank obtained a monetary judgment for $12,841.63 against Newcombe. The judgment was later registered as a charge against a property that he owned. Newcombe did not satisfy the judgment within seven days after the date of the entry nor did he report the unsatisfied judgment to the executive director. He paid the judgment a couple of months later. On his annual practice declaration, Newcombe answered “no” to the following question: “During the reporting period, I became insolvent or bankrupt or had a judgment rendered against me.”

In a subsequent letter to the Law Society, Newcombe said he was well aware of the judgment and had been in the process of negotiating with the bank to reduce the amount of interest it was charging. He admitted he ought to have reported the judgment to the Law Society, as required by the rules, and said that he had forgotten about the judgment at the time of filling out the annual practice declaration.

DETERMINATION

Newcombe said he did not intentionally breach the Law Society Rules. The panel found it unnecessary to decide whether the breach was intentional and that his failure to comply with the rules amounted to gross culpable neglect of his duties as a lawyer. The panel noted an unsatisfied monetary judgment may be a sign of underlying problems that render a lawyer unable to properly perform their duties and that Newcombe had previously been told about the importance of complying with this rule. The panel also concluded that it did not need to determine whether Newcombe knew the answer to the annual practice declaration question was untrue when he made it, because in any event providing the untrue answer amounted to gross culpable neglect of his duties as a lawyer.

The panel determined Newcombe committed professional misconduct.

2021 LSBC 38 Decision on Facts and Determination