Discipline digest

Please find summaries with respect to:

Christin Priscille Marcotte
John Lawrence Chipperfield
Donald Alexander Boyd
David William Blinkhorn – addendum

For the full text of discipline decisions, visit the Regulation & Insurance / Regulatory Hearings section of the Law Society website.

Christin Priscille Marcotte

Abbotsford, BC
Called to the bar: August 31, 1990
Discipline hearing: June 30, 2010
Panel: David Renwick, QC (single Bencher panel)
Report issued: August 3, 2010 (2010 LSBC 18)
Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society and Christin Priscille Marcotte on her own behalf

Facts

The Law Society received complaints about Christin Priscille Marcotte from a client, a former client and another party. In the course of its investigations, Law Society staff made numerous attempts to obtain Marcotte’s response to the complaints, by phone, letters and a personal visit. Marcotte either did not respond or did not address the issues raised in the complaints. She failed to provide materials requested by the Law Society, which included ledgers, files and other supporting documents.

Verdict

The panel was satisfied that the evidence established that Marcotte’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct. She was given ample opportunity to respond to the complaints. Although she was going through a difficult time, she did not provide any specific, meaningful explanation as to why she failed to respond.

Penalty

Although this was Marcotte’s first citation, the panel found her professional conduct record was a significant aggravating factor. She had two conduct reviews for breach of undertaking, three conduct reviews related to procrastination and delay in handling of client matters; and a practice standards review resulting in her agreement to not practise in the area of wills and estates.

The panel noted that the issue of three complaints during the same time period, and no response having been provided, was another factor.

The panel ordered that Marcotte pay:

1. a $2,750 fine; and

2. $2,400 in costs.

Marcotte was also ordered to provide a substantive response to the Law Society concerning the three complaints.

John Lawrence Chipperfield

Surrey, BC
Called to the bar: June 29, 1972
Discipline hearing: August 10, 2010
Panel: Gavin Hume, QC, Chair, Peter Lloyd and Robert McDiarmid, QC
Report issued: August 31, 2010 (2010 LSBC 20)
Counsel: Eric Wredenhagen on behalf of the Law Society and John Lawrence Chipperfield on his own behalf

Facts

John Lawrence Chipperfield failed to respond to Law Society letters regarding three complaints made against him.

Chipperfield’s explanation to the panel was that he had raised privilege issues in an earlier Law Society inquiry relating to a trust audit of his practice, which were essentially the same reasons he had for failing to respond to the letters regarding the complaints. He stated that any response would require disclosure of privileged matters. He had previously refused to disclose those matters, and he felt he was placed in double jeopardy by being asked to respond to the complaints.

Although the panel did not need to decide whether disclosure of requested materials breached privilege, as Chipperfield contended, it suggested that he may be confusing principles of solicitor-client privilege in private legal disputes with those applicable within the regulatory scheme of the Legal Profession Act. The panel also noted that most of the questions in the Law Society’s letters did not appear to require disclosure of privileged matters. Noting that a persistent failure to respond to Law Society correspondence places a persuasive burden on the respondent to excuse that conduct, the panel decided that Chipperfield did not satisfy that burden.

Verdict

The panel found that Chipperfield had professionally misconducted himself.

Penalty

The panel ordered that Chipperfield pay:

1. a $1,000 fine; and

2. $2,000 in costs.

The panel also ordered Chipperfield to respond to the questions posed by the Law Society in its correspondence. The panel suggested that, in his response, he identify those portions of the documents that, in his view, have a solicitor and client privilege attached to them so that he can take the matter up before the Courts if he so desires.

Donald Alexander Boyd

Surrey, BC
Called to the bar: December 19, 1985
Discipline hearing: July 21, 2010
Panel: David Renwick, QC (single Bencher panel)
Report issued: September 9, 2010 (2010 LSBC 21)
Counsel: Maureen Boyd for the Law Society and Leonard Doust, QC for Donald Alexander Boyd

Facts

In February 2005, Boyd’s adult son entered into a pre-sale contract to purchase a condominium. The son assigned his interest in the contract of purchase and sale of the condominium to his mother, Boyd’s former wife, to enable her to handle the purchase for him.

Boyd’s former wife arranged financing for the purchase of the condominium by obtaining a mortgage from the bank on her own property. Boyd represented his former wife in the purchase of the condominium and the mortgage of her existing property. He also represented the bank.

The bank instructed Boyd to prepare and register a first mortgage on the existing property. On March 10, 2008, Boyd received the mortgage proceeds, which he deposited to his trust account. On March 13 and 14, he disbursed the funds to complete the purchase of the condominium and paid the bank for the outstanding amount of the prior mortgage.

At the end of March or the beginning of April 2008, Boyd ceased to act for the bank in respect of the new mortgage, without carrying out the instructions of the bank. He did not advise the bank that he was withdrawing his services, that his former wife had not executed any mortgage documents, or that he had disbursed the mortgage proceeds.

Admission and penalty

Boyd admitted that he released the mortgage funds without first obtaining and registering a mortgage against his former wife’s property as security, contrary to the bank’s instructions. He further admitted that he failed to report to the bank that he had not secured its position, by releasing the mortgage funds without first obtaining and registering a mortgage against the property of his former wife.

Boyd admitted that his conduct constituted professional misconduct.

The misconduct in this case ultimately caused no financial harm, but did create a significant risk of harm for the client. He abandoned the bank and the obligations he owed to it as its solicitor. Further, when the bank wrote several letters to Boyd in early 2009 requesting a title report and duplicate registered mortgage, he did not reply to those letters.

The panel noted that Boyd did not receive any gain or benefit from his misconduct.

An aggravating factor was Boyd’s professional conduct record, which consists of two conduct reviews in 1993 and 2006 and a referral to the Practice Standards Committee in 2006.

The panel determined that there was little likelihood of any reoccurrence as Boyd did not practise real estate law. His involvement was unique to the circumstances, and therefore there was no need to deter him.

The panel accepted Boyd’s admission and ordered that he pay:

1. a $3,500 fine; and

2. $2,000 in costs.

David William Blinkhorn – addendum

The following is an addendum to the discipline digest in the Summer 2010 Benchers’ Bulletin.

Facts: David William Blinkhorn admitted, and the panel found, that he had committed professional misconduct. The panel further found that he breached the Law Society Rules in failing to keep proper trust accounting records.

The panel ordered that Blinkhorn be disbarred and pay $37,000 in costs.

Trust protection coverage

The BC legal profession provides financial protection to members of the public whose money has been stolen by a lawyer. If a claim is made against a lawyer relating to the theft of money or other property, Trust Protection Coverage (TPC) is available under Part B of the lawyer’s insurance policy to reimburse the claimant, on the lawyer’s behalf, for the amount of the loss.

Based on the circumstances described in paragraph [3](2) of Law Society of BC v. Blinkhorn, 2009 LSBC 24, a TPC claim was made against David William Blinkhorn and the amount of $40,746 paid. This is in addition to the claim reported in the Summer 2010 Discipline digest. Blinkhorn is obliged to reimburse the Law Society in full for the amounts paid under TPC.

For more information on TPC, including what losses are eligible for payment, see Regulation & Insurance / Trust Protection Coverage on the Law Society’s website at lawsociety.bc.ca.