Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Facts and Determination

Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota

Surrey, BC

Called to the bar: August 11, 2006

Discipline hearing: April 25 to 27, 2016

Panel: Phil Riddell, Chair, Ralston S. Alexander, QC and Glenys Blackadder

Decision issued: July 25, 2016 (2016 LSBC 29)

Counsel: Alison Kirby for the Law Society; Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota on his own behalf

FACTS

A Law Society trust compliance audit at Pir Indar Paul Singh Sahota’ s office beginning on February 23, 2011 was put over until September 26, 2011, as Sahota’ s records were incomplete and needed to be put in proper order.

As a result of the audit, a lengthy citation was issued comprising seven separate allegations, some of which include several sub-allegations of misconduct. In total, 52 factual incidents were set out in the citation, dealing with events that occurred between July 2008 and July 2011. Sahota replied to a Notice to Admit prepared by the Law Society, essentially admitting all factual allegations but denying the allegations of misappropriation.

Since virtually all other components of the multi-count citation were admitted, the hearing panel considered whether Sahota’ s behaviour amounted to misappropriation. This included incidents that demonstrated improper handling of trust funds, including misappropriating or improperly withdrawing client trust funds; not immediately eliminating trust fund shortages upon discovery of the shortages; failure to deposit trust funds in a pooled trust account as soon as practicable; maintaining more than $300 of personal funds in a pooled trust account, contrary to Law Society Rules; and failure to maintain accounting records in compliance with the Law Society Rules.

The panel felt that a finding of professional misconduct without a matching determination of misappropriation would not sufficiently describe the extent to which the public trust has been abused in the circumstances of this citation. The sheer volume of the delicts established the necessary element of fault. This extent of trust account mismanagement must in itself demonstrate the necessary elements of wrongdoing and fault.

The panel concluded that “ the English language has insufficient adjectives to pay proper respect to the mess that was the financial records of [Sahota].” It also concluded that, although Sahota successfully completed the Small Firm Practice Course twice, he must have “ had assistance with the testing sections of the course to establish a passing status.”

DETERMINATION

The panel found that the facts cited in the allegations disclose a marked departure from the conduct the Law Society expects of lawyers and is therefore professional misconduct.

The panel also found that, in the conduct of the financial aspects of his practice, Sahota was “ so comprehensively inept” that “ it may not be appropriate to characterize his behaviour as negligent” and that Sahota is therefore also guilty of misappropriation of his clients’ funds.

2016 LSBC 29 Decision on Facts and Determination