News Releases

For immediate release February 17, 1998

Law Society of B.C. to investigate lawyer conduct in Skeena Cellulose matter

The Law Society of British Columbia announced today that it will investigate the allegations made about a lawyer involved in the Skeena Cellulose restructuring plan. The Law Society’s Secretary, Jim Matkin, confirmed that the Law Society is aware of reports regarding lawyer Clive Bird and Mr. Bird’s alleged communications with Supreme Court of BC Justice Allan Thackray.

"The Law Society is investigating the matter and when the investigation is completed, we will advise you of its outcome," said Mr. Matkin.

As the investigation is now underway, the Law Society is unable to comment further until the investigation is completed and a decision made as to what, if any, further action should be taken.

With over 9,000 members, the Law Society of British Columbia is the governing body for the legal profession in the province. Its chief executive officer is the Secretary. The Law Society’s mandate is to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice and to set standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of practising lawyers in the province.

(30)

Note to Editors: Please refer to the following Law Society Backgrounders. For more information, contact Elizabeth Cordeau, Public Affairs Manager, 604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 in B.C.

Backgrounders

Law Society Rules Regarding Communications With the Judiciary

Professional Conduct Handbook

The Professional Conduct Handbook contains rules regarding "the lawyer as advocate". The rules do not absolutely prohibit a lawyer from communicating with a judge outside the courtroom.

Other practice directives

Communications with the judiciary are also governed by convention and practice directives issued by the Supreme Court. Please refer to them for more information.

Law Society Discipline Process

How complaints are made

The Law Society investigates complaints from many sources. The public, including clients, the media, the judiciary and government, can make complaints to the Law Society. The Law Society may also initiate on its own an investigation into lawyer conduct.

The procedure

When the Law Society investigates a lawyer's conduct or competence, the lawyer is asked to respond. Depending upon the circumstances, the Law Society staff may make further inquiries, conduct an investigation, or obtain more information from the complainant or lawyer.

When all the facts have been ascertained, a complaint investigation may refer the complaint to the Discipline Committee or the Competency Committee, or may conclude that there is no basis for pursuing the complaint. The complainant and lawyer are notified of the decision. A complainant who is unhappy over a dismissal of a complaint may appeal that decision to the Complainants' Review Committee, which is chaired by a Lay Bencher.

The Discipline Committee meets monthly to review complaints. It may, in serious cases, issue a citation leading to formal disciplinary charges, order an informal conduct review before two Benchers, or decide to take no further action.

Types of discipline

Disciplinary actions include a conduct review, reprimand, fine, suspension or disbarment. The nature of the disciplinary action depends on the seriousness of the misconduct.

Disclosure of the existence of a complaint

The Law Society is subject to the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

Under the Act, the Law Society cannot disclose the existence, or lack thereof, of a complaint or complaint investigation unless it falls under the jurisdiction of the Law Society’s Rule 110, which allows for disclosure of the existence of a complaint, its subject matter and its status if (a) the identity of the lawyer has been disclosed to the public and (b) the complaint has become generally known to the public.

However, in order to ensure lack of bias and a proper and fair investigation, the Law Society will not discuss the substance of a complaint until the investigation is completed and handled accordingly.