Admitted Discipline Violations

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action

Hong Guo

Richmond, BC

Called to the bar: May 4, 2009

Hearing dates: August 10 and 11, 2021

Written submissions: December 10, 2021

Panel: David Layton, QC (chair), Jeevyn Dhaliwal, QC and Brendan Matthews

Decision issued: January 17, 2022 (2022 LSBC 03)

Counsel: Alison Kirby for the Law Society; Craig E. Jones, QC for Hong Guo

BACKGROUND

A hearing panel determined that Hong Guo committed professional misconduct by failing to ensure clients’ advance payments of cash funds were deposited into a trust account and the six clients did not provide their informed consent to Guo treating the cash funds as her own property on receipt. She also received trust funds in breach of an interim order made by three Benchers, which prohibited her from handling client trust funds (2021 LSBC 20).

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The Law Society sought a suspension of four months and an order that, for three years and thereafter until relieved by the Discipline Committee, Guo must practise law only as an employee of a law firm of three or more lawyers approved by the executive director, not handle any trust transactions or be responsible for authorizing trust transactions and not assume responsibility for any bookkeeping or maintaining financial records. Guo submitted that the penalty for her misconduct should be a reprimand or a fine.

The panel considered the serious nature of the misconduct, Guo’s extensive professional conduct record that showed a pattern of failures to comply with Law Society regulatory requirements, undertakings and orders, the range of sanctions in other cases and the need to maintain public confidence in the profession. The panel also considered mitigating factors such as the modest amount of trust funds mishandled, none of the clients suffered harm or lost money and her misconduct was not intentional.

The panel gave little weight to the 13 reference letters Guo submitted, as some of the signatories did not indicate any awareness of her professional conduct record and the panel was able to make the finding that no clients suffered harm as a result of her misconduct in this case, without the reliance on the reference letters.

The panel noted that Guo is currently under significant practice conditions and has been for well over four years. The panel concluded that the practice conditions sought by the Law Society in this case are not needed to ensure the protection of the public and to maintain its confidence in the profession and the disciplinary process, citing a decision on a separate disciplinary matter involving Guo (2021 LSBC 43).

The panel ordered that Guo:

  1. be suspended for one month; and
  2. pay costs of $16,135.82.

2022 LSBC 03 Decision on Disciplinary Action