Discipline rules amended
The Benchers have approved extensive amendments to the discipline rules. The changes are largely procedural in nature and are intended to make the process of ordering and issuing a citation and running a hearing more efficient and effective. The various changes include the following:
- Terminology will more closely reflect the Legal Profession Act – The old rules use terminology that is reflective of the criminal process. Language will be updated to that used in the governing statute, which is more appropriate to administrative law.
- Discipline Committee to authorize citations – Under the old rules, only the chair of the Discipline Committee or any three Benchers could authorize a citation. In the interests of a clearer and more transparent procedure, that authority, which includes authorizing additional allegations and rescinding individual allegations in an existing citation, will now rest with the Discipline Committee. If a situation is urgent, the chair alone may order a citation.
- Issuing a citation separated from notice of a hearing – A citation will no longer be required to include the date of the hearing, which can delay the issuance of a citation considerably. Instead, a notice of hearing advising the date and time of the hearing will be sent to the respondent later.
- Panel membership open to non-lawyers – Panel members must be adult permanent residents of BC, but do not have to be Benchers, Life Benchers or lawyers. This will allow implementation of a policy adopted by the Benchers earlier in the year that hearing panels should be drawn from three pools: current Benchers, non-bencher lawyers and non-lawyers. Implementation awaits the approval of criteria for selection of members of the latter two pools.
- Resolution of preliminary questions before hearing – Before the hearing begins, a party may apply for severance of allegations in a single citation or joinder of two or more citations, or for the determination of other questions. A procedure is provided for such applications.
- Prehearing conference procedures – Notice of a prehearing conference must be given to the respondent, but the respondent or his or her counsel need not attend in person. The Chambers Bencher may proceed in the absence of the respondent.
- Summary hearing for breach of any order – The summary hearing rules are now available when breach of any order made under the Act or Rules is in issue.
- Panels may review agreed facts in advance of hearing – The hearing panel can review an agreed statement of facts, as well as the citation, in advance of the hearing.
- Some rules are corrected or improved:
- the confidentiality that applies to consideration of complaints by the Discipline Committee extended to cover the chair’s consideration of complaints in urgent situations;
- rules dealing with the content of citations are moved ahead to improve the flow of the Rules;
- the list of forms of evidence that a hearing panel may consider is clarified to expressly include oral and affidavit evidence;
- electronic service of documents is expressly permitted.
The new rules are published on the website (see Publications & Forms / Act, Rules & Handbook) and will be included in the December 2010 Member’s Manual amendment package.