|For immediate release||January 28, 2016|
Law Society suspends Vancouver lawyer Catherine Sas [updated February 26, 2016] [updated May 5, 2016] [updated July 29, 2016]
Vancouver, January 28, 2016 – The Law Society sets standards of professional responsibility for BC lawyers and articled students, and upholds those standards through a complaints and discipline process. These standards and processes are important to maintain public confidence and trust in lawyers. Accordingly, the Law Society has ordered that lawyer Catherine Sas, QC, of Vancouver be suspended for four months commencing March 1, 2016, and pay costs of $32,038.49.
[Updated February 26, 2016: Sas has requested a review of the decision and has been granted a stay of the suspension until the review is discontinued, abandoned or dismissed; until further order of the review board; or until September 15, 2016; whichever comes first.] [updated May 5, 2016: the written decision is available here.] [updated July 29, 2016: Sas has applied for, and been granted, an extension of the stay until January 30, 2017 or until further order of the Review Board.]
In March 2010, Sas stopped working as a sole practitioner and joined a law firm. By early 2011 she still held money in trust that had been received from clients while she was a sole practitioner, and several outstanding files and unbilled time and disbursements relating to her former sole practice had to be dealt with. She embarked on a file review project to deal with those files, including the unbilled time and disbursements and the monies held in trust.
In March and August 2011 Sas billed clients for disbursements that had not been incurred and paid to her law corporation money held in trust for those clients. She also withdrew funds held in trust to pay her law corporation for charges assessed to clients, without immediately delivering bills to those clients. In its Decision on Facts and Determination issued on April 20, 2015, a hearing panel concluded that all of these actions constitute professional misconduct and breaches of the Legal Profession Act or the Law Society Rules. Sas appealed the Decision on Facts and Determination to the BC Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard on January 15, 2016 and the decision is under reserve.
On January 25, 2016, the hearing panel issued its Decision on Disciplinary Action and Costs. In ordering the four-month suspension, the panel considered the seriousness of the conduct and aggravating and mitigating factors, forty-six letters of support tendered by Sas, letters from Sas and her accountant, and case authorities including sanctions imposed in prior similar cases. The panel found that Sas’s primary motive in wrongfully taking approximately $1,947 from 23 clients was to clean up the accounting records relating to her sole practice and to wind up that practice. The panel concluded that protection of the public is paramount in this case, as it is in every case where a lawyer has committed professional misconduct by misappropriating monies held in trust for clients.
The Law Society of British Columbia upholds and protects the public interest in the administration of justice by ensuring the independence, integrity and competence of lawyers, establishing education and professional development standards for lawyers, regulating the practice of law and preserving and protecting the rights and freedoms of all persons.
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