Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts and Determination

Sumit Ahuja

Langley, BC

Called to the bar: April 15, 2011

Discipline hearing: March 26 and 27, 2019

Panel: Steven McKoen, QC (chair), Nan Bennett and Shona Moore, QC

Decision issued: August 21, 2019 (2019 LSBC 31)

Counsel: Irwin Nathanson, QC for the Law Society; Henry Wood, QC for Sumit Ahuja

FACTS

In March 2017, Sumit Ahuja failed to attend a chambers application and caused his office to lie to the court and to his clients regarding the reason. Over the ensuing nine-month period, Ahuja failed to follow accounting and billing rules with regard to 10 clients, including failures to deposit funds received from a client into a trust account. In four of those instances, Ahuja used some of the funds for personal expenses.

Medical experts attested that, at the time of the conduct, Ahuja had severe alcohol and cocaine dependence disorders. In March 2017, Ahuja self-reported to the Law Society, voluntarily removed himself from the practice of law and entered a residential facility for treatment of his addictions. After completing the residential program, Ahuja provided successive voluntary undertakings not to practise law and put in place a program of rehabilitation and drug and alcohol monitoring.

DETERMINATION

The hearing panel accepted Ahuja’s admissions that his failure to attend a chambers application and failure to follow the accounting rules amounted to professional misconduct. The panel determined that the term “misappropriation” should be avoided in this case, accepting expert evidence that Ahuja’s behaviour and decision-making processes were affected by his active addiction. While the use of trust funds for personal expenses constitutes serious professional misconduct, the panel characterized that misconduct as “conversion of client funds to his personal use while in active addiction.”

2019 LSBC 31 Decision on Facts and Determination