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 Regulation & Insurance / Regulatory Hearings section of the Law Society website.

Gordon Douglas Hoffman

Kamloops, BC

Hearing (application for reinstatement): June 22, August 28 and September 15, 2009

Panel: David Zacks, QC, Chair, Leon Getz, QC and Jan Lindsay

Report issued: October 13, 2009 (2009 LSBC 30)

Counsel: Henry Wood, QC for the Law Society and Ravi Hira, QC for Gordon Douglas Hoffman

Gordon Douglas Hoffman was a member of the Law Society from 1984 to 2000 and again from 2006 to 2007. His practice was largely in litigation, including ad hoc prosecutions for the Federal Crown.

In the mid 1990s, Hoffman experienced symptoms of depression. He was placed on medication, which caused unpleasant side effects. Hoffman developed a pattern of taking his medications in the winter and not in the summer, and in the winter of 1999, he decided to try to cope without medication.

At that time, Hoffman worked with a young woman, to whom he was attracted. He felt the attraction was mutual and that they had developed a close relationship.

The young woman did her best to rebuff the attraction and maintain a professional working relationship with Hoffman. She described many instances of inappropriate comments and emails. Ultimately, the woman lodged a complaint with the Law Society and commenced a civil action against Hoffman and the firm. The action was settled and the Law Society complaint resulted in a letter from the Chair of the Discipline Committee.

Following the complaint and commencement of civil proceedings, Hoffman suffered worsening symptoms of depression and ultimately left the practice, surrendering his practising certificate.

In 2003, Hoffman had recovered his health and applied for reinstatement of practising status. At the request of the Law Society, he wrote qualification exams and was reinstated in 2006 without a hearing.

After some difficulty in locating a job near his home, Hoffman secured employment with the Provincial Crown in St. Paul, Alberta commencing January 2006. Hoffman found the practice and procedures in that office to be different from his own experience. In addition, there were some personality conflicts. Hoffman was dismissed in April of that same year.

Upon losing his job, Hoffman returned his status to non-practising and remained non-practising through 2007. In November 2007 he attended a potential legal employment opportunity in Nunavut, which he did not find satisfactory. He allowed his membership to lapse.

Also in 2007 Hoffman commenced employment (not as a lawyer) with Company C. During a training session he had a confrontation with another trainee and his employment was terminated.

In the fall of 2008, Hoffman met a practitioner in Kelowna, who offered him the opportunity for employment as a lawyer. Once again, Hoffman applied for reinstatement; however, his application now disclosed his termination from the Alberta Crown and from the position with Company C. There were also some discrepancies in the reports concerning these events and Hoffman’s correspondence with the Law Society, all of which resulted in an order for this hearing.

In support of the most recent application for reinstatement, Hoffman spoke with Law Society staff and provided a medical report prepared by his then-treating psychiatrist that addressed his illness, treatment and recovery. The report contained information about his employment history that Law Society staff believed was inaccurate and attributed the inaccuracy to the applicant.

This panel found that Hoffman showed exceedingly poor judgment in his relationship with the young woman and, in some instances, in his personal relations with other co-workers. However, these errors of judgment and personality issues do not indicate an inherent lack of honesty or integrity.

The panel found Hoffman has discharged his burden, is of good character and repute and fit to be a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court.

Before the hearing, Hoffman had offered to agree to conditions on his return to practice, which the panel found appropriate and so ordered that Hoffman be reinstated on the following conditions:

1. he will continue taking all depression-related medication as may be recommended by his family physician or by a treating psychiatrist;

2. for a period of three years following reinstatement, Hoffman’s family physician will advise the Law Society immediately if he is not following medication recommendations, and will deliver annual reports to the Law Society otherwise, confirming compliance;

3. for a period of one year following reinstatement, Hoffman will practise in association with and under the supervision of Lawyer L, or another lawyer approved by the Credentials Committee;

4. for a period of one year following reinstatement, Lawyer L, or another lawyer approved by the Credentials Committee, will file quarterly reports commenting upon Hoffman’s performance and condition;

5. one year following reinstatement, if the reports described in condition 4 have all been satisfactory to the Credentials Committee, condition 3 will be removed; and

6. condition 1 may only be removed if recommended by Hoffman’s family physician or treating psychiatrist at some point after the first three years of his reinstatement and after subsequent approval by a medical examiner appointed by the Credentials Committee.