Credentials hearing

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 Hearing reports ­section of the Law Society website.

(otherwise known as Marius Alexander)

Chilliwack, BC
Called to the bar: May 19, 1995
Ceased membership: January 1, 2007   
Hearing (application for reinstatement): February 21, 2011
Panel: David Mossop, QC, Chair, Patricia Bond and Stacy Kuiack
Reports issued: May 24 (2011 LSBC 14), July 5 (2011 LSBC 17) and August 2, 2011 (2011 LSBC 21)
Counsel: Henry Wood, QC for the Law Society and Ian Aikenhead, QC for Marius Schuetz

Marius Schuetz applied for reinstatement after voluntarily leaving the practice of law in 2006, in part to deal with his alcohol problem. Schuetz presented an independent medical evaluation to the panel that stated there was no evidence to suggest that he was still using alcohol.

If the only issues before the panel were alcoholism and rehabilitation, the matter would be considered straightforward. The problem was that, prior to leaving practice, Schuetz had had a number of conduct issues with the Law Society:

  • failing to make full disclosure to the Court regarding ex parte applications;
  • communicating with a person represented by a lawyer without that lawyer’s consent; and
  • mixing the practice of the law with his business dealings with clients.

Additionally, an interim audit of Schuetz’s trust accounts in 2006 has shown that his financial records were in disarray. 

The panel noted that, to Schuetz’s credit, he acknowledged that he may have acted improperly in intermingling his business dealings with his law practice and also admitted his mistakes in violating the trust rules. He consented to not operating a trust account if he was readmitted.

Schuetz’s lawyer submitted that the past conduct issues were connected to the alcoholism. The panel found no specific medical evidence connecting Schuetz’s conduct issues to alcoholism. Some of the conduct issues predated his more serious drinking problems. The panel found it significant that his problems with the Law Society started within a few years of being called to the Bar. However, the panel recognized that alcoholism is a disease and can diminish the capacity to practise law.

The panel was satisfied that Schuetz had dealt with his alcohol problem and ordered that he be reinstated as a member of the Law Society on medical conditions. After considering written submissions from Schuetz and the Law Society, the panel ordered a number of conditions, including that he:

  • provide a written commitment to abstain from all potentially addictive mood-altering drugs unless prescribed by a physician;
  • enrol in a formal medical monitoring process;
  • continue to use one designated physician as his primary care physician;
  • consult with his personal physician on a regular basis and ensure that there are follow-up investigations of potentially abnormal liver enzyme levels;
  • attend regular support group meetings, maintain contact with a sponsor and complete the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program;
  • demonstrate complete compliance with the terms of his signed monitoring or relapse prevention agreement for four consecutive weeks.

The panel had concerns about the problems that Schuetz had had in the past with the Law Society and imposed as additional conditions for the protection of the public interest that he:

  • not have a trust account or otherwise deal with clients’ money;
  • restrict his practice to legal consultant and advisor;
  • not advise any client on an ex parte order or garnishing before judgment;
  • not mix his business activity with his practice of law, even if the client obtains independent advice;
  • re-take the Professional Legal Training Course or take double Continuing Professional Development hours for the next three years; and
  • enter into a mentoring agreement.

Schuetz subsequently made an application under Rule 2-69 for a variation of those conditions. The president referred that application to the original panel for decision.

There were two main concerns for this application. The first was that it was impractical for him to practise without dealing with clients’ money (though his counsel suggested this in a letter). The second was that Schuetz did not want to restrict his practice to that of a legal consultant. The panel decided that there was good cause to vary. These changes include that Schuetz:

  • not have a trust account, unless authorized by the Practice Standards Committee; and
  • practise only as an employee or associate of one or more other lawyers who are subject to the approval of the Practice Standards Committee, such condition to remain in effect until the condition of completing the CPD hours is concluded in three years; the Practice Standards Committee may extend this three-year time limit.

The panel stated that Schuetz had made great strides in dealing with his alcoholism and deserved a second chance. However, he should consider himself on “probation.” The monitoring or relapse prevention agreement may be extended beyond 12 months.

The panel also ordered that Schuetz pay $2,500 in costs.

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