Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action

Sumit Ahuja

Langley, BC

Called to the bar: April 15, 2011

Hearing date: December 17, 2020

Panel: Steven McKoen, QC, Chair, Nat Bennett and Shona A. Moore, QC

Decision issued: October 28, 2021 (2021 LSBC 44)

Counsel:   Irwin G. Nathanson, QC and Julia K. Lockhart for the Law Society; Henry C. Wood, QC and Sandra L. Kovacs for Sumit Ahuja

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel found Sumit Ahuja had committed professional misconduct on ten occasions over a nine-month period while in active addiction: once by failing to attend a chambers application; four times through conversion of client funds to his own use; and five times by failing to follow accounting and billing rules, including by failing to deposit funds received from a client into a trust account (2019 LSBC 31). The Law Society sought a review to have the panel label taking client funds as “ misappropriation” rather than “ conversion of client funds to his personal use while in active addiction.” The review board found the correct characterization of Ahuja’ s actions is misappropriation (2020 LSBC 31).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered the grave nature of Ahuja’ s conduct and his substantial professional conduct record including conduct prior to application to admission, a practice review, two citations, a voluntary undertaking not to practise law and a conduct review. The panel noted that Ahuja was in active addiction at the time he misappropriated his clients’ money and failed to appear in chambers, and he has since sought help, completed a residential rehabilitation program and has made restitution to all of his victims.

The panel also considered 28 letters with character references submitted by Ahuja regarding his efforts at rehabilitation, his acknowledgement of his misconduct, as well as balanced these mitigating factors with the need to ensure the public’ s confidence in the legal profession.

The panel ordered Ahuja:

  1. be suspended for seven months;
  2. continue the medical supervision agreement currently in place during the suspension and for a period of five years total;
  3. have practice restrictions in place for one year following his suspension, including practising only as an employee of a law firm, not handling any trust funds, and only practising in family law and immigration law unless the Law Society provides written permission; and
  4. pay costs of $10,000.

2021 LSBC 44 Decision on Disciplinary Action