|For immediate release||February 11, 2015|
100 Mile House lawyer’s suspension substituted for fine
Vancouver – A Law Society review board has set aside a suspension for lawyer Douglas Dent.
In January, 2014 a hearing panel ordered Dent suspended for improperly withdrawing trust funds to pay fees and disbursements. Dent had admitted to using $2,000 he was holding in trust to recover legal fees and disbursements from his client. The money was supposed to be forwarded to his client’s spouse in equalization payments under the terms of a separation agreement. The panel found that Dent put his own interests ahead of his client’s by withdrawing the funds from the trust account without consent in order to be compensated for his work.
In addition to transferring the money from the trust account, Dent also requested an additional $2,000 from his client to settle what was owed to the spouse in equalization payments.
However, in its decision, the review board noted: “Here, there is no dispute that [Dent’s] improper taking of monies from trust was professional misconduct. [Dent] says that his taking of funds was on an honest but mistaken belief.” The board went on to say, “In this case, [Dent] says that he believed he was entitled to transfer funds from trust to pay his fees. There is no suggestion that he did not hold that belief. He was wrong but he was not dishonest.”
As such, the review board concluded that the 45-day suspension is outside the appropriate range of disciplinary action in this case. The board has instead ordered that Dent pay a fine of $5,000 plus the cost of the hearing.
The Law Society of British Columbia regulates the more than 11,000 practising lawyers in the province, setting and enforcing standards of professional conduct that ensure the public is well-served by a competent, honourable legal profession.
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