Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

Michael John Butterfield

Victoria, BC

Called to the bar: December 7, 2001

Discipline hearing: December 14, 2016

Panel: C.E. Lee Ongman, Chair, James E. Dorsey, QC and June Preston

Decision issued: January 19, 2017 (2017 LSBC 02)

Counsel: Randy Kaardal, QC and Rebecca Robb for the Law Society; Peter Firestone for Michael John Butterfield

FACTS

Michael John Butterfield is a sole practitioner who, in 2014, employed a law student to work as an administrative assistant in his practice for the summer. He also employed a paralegal completing her practicum.

In May and June of 2014, Butterfield made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to the student in 15 instances and once touched her lower back. Several of the comments were made in the presence of the paralegal. His comments affected the office environment for both staff members.

The student kept a journal of her concerns about Butterfield’ s conduct and reported her concerns to friends and family. She also sought advice from a professor in June, writing in an email that Butterfield was quick to comment her clothing. There was no one else in the office that she and the paralegal could speak with about Butterfield’ s comments.

In July 2014, the student raised the issue with Butterfield, advising that his comments about her clothing made her feel uncomfortable. She provided examples of his remarks on her cleavage and how her skirts should be shorter. Butterfield apologized for his conduct and agreed to change his behaviour.

Butterfield made changes to the office policies to prevent repetition of such conduct, such as policies on dress code, sexual harassment and harassment and bullying. His comments and conduct of a sexual nature stopped. The student resigned in August 2014 on medical grounds. She made a complaint to the Law Society in February 2015, and the citation was issued later that month.

In September 2016, Butterfield actively participated in a five-hour sensitivity training course. He has also written a statement accepting full responsibility for his conduct and expressing regret for his actions.

ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Butterfield admitted that he committed professional misconduct by sexually harassing two employees between May 14 and July 14, 2014. His counsel cooperated with discipline counsel to develop an agreed statement of facts and proposed disciplinary action.

The hearing panel accepted his admission and consented to the proposed disciplinary action and ordered him to:

  • pay a fine of $10,000;
  • pay costs of $2,236.25; and
  • complete a sensitivity training course.

2017 LSBC 02 Decision of the Hearing Panel