Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel

ERIC JOHN (JACK) WOODWARD

Campbell River

Called to the bar: November 13, 1979

Discipline hearing: August 13, 2015

Panel: Lee Ongman, Chair, Dan Goodleaf and Carol Hickman, QC

Decision issued: November 9, 2015 (2015 LSBC 49)

Counsel: Kieron Grady for the Law Society; David M. Rosenberg, QC for Eric John (Jack) Woodward

FACTS AND DETERMINATION

In 2011, Eric John (Jack) Woodward issued cheques on two accounts, when he knew that there were insufficient funds to satisfy some or all of the cheques, for the purpose of concealing that there were insufficient funds in one or both accounts.

At the time, Woodward had business interests outside of his legal practice. In addition to being the director of Jack Woodward Law Corporation, he was the sole director and shareholder of a hotel on Salt Spring Island. The law firm had an account with a credit union strictly for the personal use of Woodward and not for the practice of law. The hotel also had a current account with the same credit union.

Prior to 2011, Woodward had a history of exceeding his authorized credit limit. He would ask the credit union to cover cheques he had already written on the hotel account, usually in amount of around $10,000. In January 2009, the credit union temporarily increased his line of credit from $150,000 to $185,000. Woodward continued to write cheques in excess of the line of credit and requested an extension, which the credit union granted. When it expired in February 2009, he asked for a further extension, and the credit union declined. In one instance in early 2009, Woodward used the credit union’ s ATM to process cheques between his hotel account and personal account, knowing that there were insufficient funds in the accounts to cover the cheques. Credit union staff advised him not to do so again.

In June 2009, Woodward asked the credit union to cover $15,000 for payroll cheques he wrote on the hotel account. The credit union approved the request, but credit union staff met with him in August 2010 to let him know that no additional credit would be extended.

Between January 1 and October 27, 2011, Woodward issued 417 cheques back and forth between his personal account and the hotel account. The majority of the cheques on the personal account had insufficient funds to cover the amounts. He exceeded his authorized limit of $150,000 on his line of credit on 94 per cent of the days the cheques were written.

Of the 417 cheques, 414 of them were deposited into non-credit union ATMs, which extended the clearing time of the cheques to create unauthorized credit. By late October 2011, Woodward’ s personal account was in overdraft by approximately $535,000.

The credit union decided to end its business relationship with Woodward and cancelled all ATM cards for his accounts. On November 1, 2011 Woodward met with credit union staff and counsel, apologized for his conduct and promised to repay his debt. On December 13, 2011, Woodward’ s counsel delivered a trust cheque of $686,724.77 to the credit union, inclusive of penalties and interest.

ADMISSION AND DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Woodward admitted, and the panel accepted, that his behaviour was conduct unbecoming a lawyer. By writing cheques back and forth with the knowledge that there were insufficient funds, Woodward failed to act, in his private life, in a way that maintains the confidence and respect of the public.

The panel took into consideration that Woodward had been practising law for 35 years and had no professional conduct record. He took action to rectify the situation as soon as the credit union notified him that his conduct would not be tolerated, prior to the complaint and investigation by the Law Society. The credit union ultimately suffered no loss and was repaid in full. The panel also considered the number of times the conduct occurred and the significant financial benefit Woodward gained in writing the cheques.

The panel ordered that Woodward:

  1. be suspended for one month; and
  2. pay $1,736.20 in costs.

2015 LSBC 49 Decision of the Hearing Panel