Like most lawyers, I spend a lot of time working through stacks of reading material, some of it more a chore than a pleasure. I recently took a break from briefs and committee reports, and found a story in the July issue of Canadian Lawyer a particularly compelling read.
The story describes a discipline hearing in Ontario, and raises questions about accountability and fairness under a model that the Law Society of Upper Canada has since revised.
Here in BC we’ve also updated our tribunal process. In 2010 Benchers approved a new model according to which hearing panels and credential review boards are no longer comprised exclusively of Benchers, but also include non-Bencher lawyers and non-lawyer members of the public, chosen from an established pool. Those changes stemmed from the recommendations of a task force charged with investigating ways to separate adjudicative and investigative functions of the Benchers.
The new model was fully implemented in 2012, and included in the recommendations adopted by Benchers was the provision that it would be reviewed after three years. The Tribunal Program Review Task Force, which I chair, will deliver its report to the Benchers in September.
Although the report of the task force’s findings hasn’t been finalized yet, I expect it will commend some very positive aspects of the program, including adjudicative training and public participation on each panel. Among the suggestions the committee has been considering are administrative changes that might allow for more flexibility if it is difficult to fill a panel. We are also considering whether the chair of each panel should be chosen based on experience, and how to create a balance of experience and renewal.
The ongoing review of hearing processes is just one example of how the Law Society continually strives to meet its mandate to protect the public interest in the administration of justice. I am grateful to participate and be part of this process.
Stay tuned for more about this after the September meeting.