Supreme Court denies audience to suspended Alberta lawyer

The BC Supreme Court has refused to allow Brad Kempo, a suspended lawyer from Alberta, to appear in court pro bono on behalf of a corporate litigant: Avance Venture Corporation and Hughes Maritime Corporation v. Noram Relations Group Corporation: BC (January 22, 2002) BCSC Vancouver Registry S010729.

Mr. Justice Henderson noted in his ruling that, while the court will allow persons who are not members of the BC bar to appear from time to time on behalf of corporate litigants, the occasions when a suspended or disbarred lawyer from another jurisdiction will be allowed to appear "are non-existent."

"The Law Society of Alberta, like other law societies in this country regulates lawyers in that province for the public benefit," Mr. Justice Henderson stated in his ruling. "It is manifestly in the public interest and in the interest of the courts, both in Alberta and elsewhere, that a suspension imposed upon a member of the bar by the Law Society be respected. If I were to allow this application, I would simply be permitting a circumvention of the attempt by that Law Society to prevent Mr. Kempo from practising his profession for reasons which, I assume, appear valid to that Law Society."

On the related issue of non-lawyers appearing in court as agents, the Court flagged as instructive a recent decision of the BC Court of Appeal: R. v. Dick 2002 BCCA 27. In that case, the court considered the position of a non-lawyer who sought to appear for the accused as agent, both in Supreme Court and in the Court of Appeal, respecting certain orders. The Court in R. v. Dick noted that, subject to statutory provisions otherwise, "it lies within a court's discretion to permit or not to permit a person who is not a lawyer to represent a litigant in court."

The Court in R. v. Dick also noted with approval comments in Venrose Holdings Ltd. v. Pacific Press Ltd. (1978) 7 BCLR 298 (BCCA) that "the discretionary power to grant a privilege of audience to other persons should be exercised 'rarely and with caution.'"