Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts, Determination, Disciplinary Action and Costs

Heather Catherine Cunningham

Surrey, BC

Called to the Bar: June 1, 2001

Discipline hearing: February 3, 2017

Single-Bencher panel: Jamie Maclaren

Decision issued: April 5, 2017 (2017 LSBC 09)

Counsel: Carolyn Gulabsingh for the Law Society; Heather Catherine Cunningham on her own behalf

FACTS

A woman retained Heather Catherine Cunningham to probate a will. They met in September 2015 to sign probate documents, and there was no further communication until May 18, 2016, when the client left Cunningham a telephone message requesting a progress report. The client made several more attempts to contact Cunningham by telephone, email and registered letter, and finally sent a letter to her terminating her retainer and requesting the return of her file. The client made a complaint to the Law Society in July 2016.

The Law Society contacted Cunningham by telephone on August 4, 2016 and immediately afterward couriered a letter asking for a response to the complaint. In September and October 2016 the Law Society made several attempts to contact Cunningham by telephone, email and letter. Receiving no response, the Law Society cited Cunningham on November 8, 2016.

DETERMINATION

At the hearing, Cunningham did not challenge any of the Law Society’s evidence, nor did she raise a defence to the allegation of professional misconduct. She apologized for having “missed” her duty to respond to the Law Society. The panel found that Cunningham’s failure to respond to the Law Society constituted professional misconduct.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The hearing panel ordered that Cunningham:

  1. provide a substantive written response to the complaint no later than February 17, 2017;
  2. pay a fine of $5,000; and
  3. pay costs of $1,556.74.

2007 LSBC 17 Decision on Facts and Verdict

2007 LSBC 47 Decision on Penalty