Law Society Rule 2-69.1 provides for the publication of summaries of credentials hearing panel decisions on applications for enrolment in articles, call and admission and reinstatement.
For the full text of hearing panel decisions, visit the Regulation & Insurance/Regulatory Hearings section of the Law Society website.
Hearing (application for enrolment as a temporary articled student): March 15, 16 and April 14, 2010
Panel: Kathryn Berge, QC, Chair, Haydn Acheson and David Mossop, QC
Reports issued: October 7 (2010 LSBC 23) and December 6, 2010 (2010 LSBC 25)
Counsel: Jason S. Twa for the Law Society and Henry C. Wood, QC for Applicant 3
In February 2000, a marijuana grow-operation was discovered in the basement of Applicant 3’s rented house. No charges were laid.
A few days later, Applicant 3 was charged with sexually assaulting, threatening and confining his ex-girlfriend. These charges were stayed as the ex-girlfriend recanted her allegations and failed to show up for the trial.
In 2004, police found another marijuana grow-operation in Applicant 3’s rented house. Again, no charges were laid.
The grow-operation caused significant problems for the landlord of the house: $12,000 to $15,000 in repair costs; loss of rental income; the repairs triggered new code upgrades; the house was no longer insurable for rental. The applicant acknowledged that he had never made amends to the landlord.
Applicant 3 subsequently went to law school. During law school he was an award-winning participant in pro bono legal programs.
In December 2008, Applicant 3 applied to the Law Society for temporary articles, then withdrew his application and submitted a second application in March 2009. In his applications, he disclosed some details of the charges in 2000 and claimed that his ex-girlfriend had been stalking him and that the sex was consensual. He included documentation about the 2000 marijuana grow-operation; however, the 2004 grow-operation was disclosed by Applicant 3’s counsel shortly after the second application was filed.
Applicant 3 acknowledged that his decision to take the risk of growing marijuana in 2000 demonstrated poor judgment. He claimed dire financial circumstances motivated him to start the 2004 grow operation to meet his child support payments. The panel noted that his evidence tended to minimize the seriousness of his involvement in these two grow-operations.
The name of the tenant who lived in the basement suite and was involved in the 2004 grow-operation was withheld by Applicant 3. The panel viewed this as a current, conscious decision not to cooperate with the Law Society and fully account for his past errant behaviour. This does not bode well for a person who wishes to become a member of a self-governing profession where there is a constant necessity to conform to the requirements of the governing body.
Applicant 3’s position was that the two marijuana grow-operations and his lack of consideration towards his landlord were isolated events, reflective of past poor judgment that would not pose any present concern in respect of his application for admission. He stated that he had changed as a result of counselling, volunteer work and education.
The critical question for the panel was whether Applicant 3 had changed and was able to demonstrate that he would act in accordance with high principles and not make decisions on the basis of what was convenient or personally advantageous. The panel noted that Applicant 3’s conduct in growing marijuana was not a matter of youthful indiscretion, as he was almost 39 years old at the time of the first grow-operation.
Rehabilitation is a key issue in a credentials hearing when past admitted or alleged illegal activities raise fundamental concerns regarding the applicant’s fitness. While Applicant 3 had shown exceptional determination in his efforts to obtain an education, pursue counselling and do volunteer community service, the panel also considered other factors related to his rehabilitation:
- it is possible that the applicant’s volunteer efforts during law school were motivated by his knowledge that he would be required to demonstrate good character in order to be called to the bar, rather than the result of a reformed character and conscience;
- none of those providing evidence of Applicant 3’s current good reputation knew the full facts about his past conduct;
- Applicant 3 waited until only a month before the hearing to tell his present girlfriend about his past difficulties, which reflects a current lack of candour and an inability to make difficult decisions that are uncomfortable for him;
- Applicant 3 fails to fully appreciate his past betrayal of his landlord’s trust, which caused her significant inconvenience and financial loss.
The panel found Applicant 3’s evidence to be evasive and, in many respects, improbable and beyond belief, particularly in relation to the alleged sexual assault. His lack of recollection regarding events of such significance was not persuasive of either his credibility or his current rehabilitation. The illegal nature of Applicant 3’s activities in 2000 and 2004 was a reflection of his lack of social responsibility and conscience.
The panel could not give Applicant 3 the benefit of the doubt that he would become more honest and perceptive of correct conduct once he was called to the Bar. This would transfer the risk to the public and the legal profession.
The panel concluded that Applicant 3 had not met the burden of proving his current good character and repute and fitness to become a barrister and a solicitor of the Supreme Court. The panel ordered that Applicant 3’s application for enrolment be rejected.
The panel granted a request by the applicant for a reduction of time before a further application for enrolment can be made. Under the Rules, that would otherwise be two years from the decision dismissing the application. The panel ruled that Applicant 3 may reapply for articles on or after May 1, 2012.
This decision was made in consideration of the whole of the circumstances surrounding the matter, including the age of the applicant, the importance of the matter to him in terms of his future, and the length of time that has elapsed since the application was first made to the Law Society in December 2008.