Please find summaries with respect to:
For the full text of discipline decisions, visit the Regulation & Insurance / Regulatory Hearings section of the Law Society website.
Called to the Bar: February 21, 2001
Hearing date: July 25, 2008
Panel: G. Glen Ridgway, QC, Chair, Bruce A. LeRose, QC, William Jackson
Report issued: September 4, 2008 (2008 LSBC 27)
Counsel: Maureen Boyd for the Law Society and Peter Firestone for Harry Djorgee
Harry Djorgee was retained by client SL in July 2006 to obtain a divorce from her husband and custody of her two sons.
In December 2006, Djorgee prepared and filed in the Registry a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim that bore SL's signature, however, SL did not sign either of these documents. In March 2007, Djorgee affixed SL's signature wrongfully, and without her authorization, on a Requisition and filed this Requisition in the Registry.
In March 2007 Djorgee prepared two affidavits on behalf of SL and affixed her signature when she was not present before him and did not sign the affidavits. Djorgee filed the affidavits at the Registry, knowing that the documents were falsely sworn.
In January 2007, Djorgee prepared an affidavit of service of GO in which it falsely stated that GO had served a copy of the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim on the husband. Djorgee affixed GO's signature and filed the Service Affidavit at the Registry, knowing that it was falsely sworn and contained false statements.
In June 2007, new counsel for SL made a complaint to the Law Society with respect to Djorgee. On October 23, 2007 a citation was issued against Djorgee, alleging professional misconduct for wrongfully affixing signatures on documents and filing falsely sworn documents in the Victoria Registry of the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Admission and Penalty
It should be noted that the false Affidavits in this matter were not used in a court application, Djorgee received no financial benefit from his conduct, and as soon as the matter was detected and called to the attention of Djorgee, he acknowledged his misconduct, ceased practice until this citation was dealt with, and gave a full acknowledgment of his wrongdoing. As Djorgee agreed to cease practice on October 2007, the six-month suspension resulted in Djorgee being out of practice for approximately 11 months. This provides a specific and general deterrent with respect to this conduct.
Pursuant to Law Society Rule 4-22, the hearing panel accepted Djorgee's admission and ordered that Djorgee:
be suspended for six months, of which four months will be deemed to have been served prior to the hearing date and the last two months will be served commencing from the hearing date;
- only practise in a capacity approved by the Practice Standards Committee; and
- pay costs in the amount of $1,000.
Glenn John Niemela
Called to the Bar: August 26, 1988
Discipline hearing: October 15, 2008
Panel: William Jackson, Chair, Haydn Acheson, Kathryn Berge, QC
Report issued: October 23, 2008 (2008 LSBC 35)
Counsel: Eric Wredenhagen for the Law Society, Jerome Ziskrout for Glenn Niemela
On November 30, 1992, Niemela filed and registered a certificate of pending litigation on behalf of his client, a bank, against a property in Mount Lehman, BC belonging to WW.
WW made the payments by the mid-90s that the judgment against him requried. He then checked the property title and discovered the CPL. He contacted Niemela's office occasionally to ask for it to be discharged, but did not receive any response.
In or about 2000, WW began to consider selling the property. He spoke to Niemela on the phone. Niemela advised that he would "look into it" and "get back to" WW. Niemela did not. WW subsequently left telephone messages for Niemela, but did not receive any response. WW sent a letter in December, again, making the same request to remove the CPL from title. He followed up with phone messages but, again, received no response.
WW sent a registered letter to Niemela on February 7, 2005. After he received no response he retained a lawyer in 2006. His lawyer wrote to Niemela on January 3, 2007 to request prompt discharge of the CPL. In March of that year she wrote to Niemela again and enclosed a draft discharge letter in Niemela's name for the Land Title Office. Over the course of six months, WW's lawyer had a number of phone conversations with Niemela and his staff. By June of 2007 Niemela told WW's lawyer that he would sign the draft letter of discharge that she had sent him in March, and that he would return it to her by email that day. He did not. Later that same month the Law Society received a complaint from WW's lawyer.
Admission and Penalty
Niemela admitted that his failure to provide a substantive response to either WW or his lawyer between December 2004 and June 2007 with respect to the CPL constituted professional misconduct.
Pursuant to Law Society Rule 4-22, the hearing panel accepted Niemela's admissions and ordered him to:
- pay a fine of $1,500; and
- pay costs in the amount of $1,000.
Andrew Gordon Walker
Called to the Bar: May 10, 1984; Ontario,1980
Ceased membership: November 28, 2008
Andre Gordon Walker practised at a number of firms and has specialized in securities law. Between December 2003 and April 2006 he acted as corporate legal counsel to a Calgary-based junior oil company, P Corp. Walker was also an officer and director of P Corp., a public company listed on the TSX Venture Exchange.
In February 2005, Walker and two other directors of P Corp. caused $86,000 of the company's funds to be deposited to Walker's trust account. The money was used to buy privately held P Corp. shares which were divided among Walker and the two directors. This use of the funds was not disclosed in P Corp.'s interim financial statements, which were signed by Walker. In mid-2005, P Corp.'s new CEO and new CFO questioned Walker about the $86,000 expenditure. Walker returned the funds in 2006 and took the position that the money had been a loan, albeit unauthorized and undocumented.
Assisting in dishonesty, crime or fraud
In early 2005, a P Corp. director, GT, advised Walker that 278,462 shares of P Corp. were to be issued to SM as "finder's fee" shares. Permission was granted by TSX to issue these shares. Walker subsequently discovered that SM was not a "finder" but rather a neighbour and personal lawyer of GT. Instead of advising the TSX and having the shares returned to treasury, Walker, GT and SM devised a plan to transfer the shares to a fourth individual, with the intention that the shares be sold and the proceeds divided among them.
Walker continues to be the subject of proceedings by TSX and the BC Securities Commission.
A citation was issued against Andrew Walker on February 12, 2008, and amended August 28, 2008, alleging misappropriation, conflict of interest, and assisting dishonesty, crime or fraud.
Admission and Penalty
In October 2008, Walker admitted that his conduct constituted professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming a lawyer, and incompetent performance of his duties. He resigned his membership with the Law Society, effective November 28, 2008. Under Rule 4-21, the Discipline Committee accepted Walker's admission and his undertakings:
- not to reapply for reinstatement for at least 10 years;
- not to apply for membership in any other Canadian law society without notifying the Law Society of BC; and
- not to work for any lawyer or law firm, or allow his name to appear on any lawyer's or law firm's letterhead, without the Law Society of BC's written consent.
Discipline hearing: November 21, 2007, Benchers on Review: July 25, 2008
Panel: Minority decision: Leon Getz, QC, Chair, Majority decision: Russell Tretiak, QC, Concurring decision: Dr. Maelor Vallance
Counsel: Maureen Boyd for the Law Society and Terrence Robertson, QC for Lawyer 7
Reports issued: February 11, 2008 (2008 LSBC 06) and October 06, 2008 (2008 LSBC 33)
Benchers on Review: Majority decision: Robert Brun, QC, Peter Lloyd, David Mossop, QC, Thelma O'Grady, David Renwick, QC, Minority decision: Glen Ridgway, QC, Chair, Joost Blom, QC, William Jackson, Bruce LeRose, QC
Counsel: Herman Van Ommen for the Law Society and Terrence Robertson, QC for Lawyer 7
The citation against Lawyer 7 was issued on May 20, 2007. It originally covered three distinct allegations, all arising out of the same matter. Subsequently, Lawyer 7 proposed to the Discipline Committee that he would make a Rule 4-22 conditional admission of professional misconduct in respect of one of those allegations. The proposal was accepted, and the Discipline Committee directed counsel not to proceed on the remaining allegations.
The allegation involved Lawyer 7 failing to keep an undertaking given in the course of a personal injury matter in which Lawyer 7 acted for the defendant. The undertaking was to provide plaintiff's counsel with a copy of the reports of a physician who was to conduct an independent medical examination of the plaintiff. The physician was to make an interim report and then, after reviewing the plaintiff's records, a final report. Lawyer 7 received the physician's interim report in February 2004, but did not provide it to plaintiff's counsel until September 2005. In the meantime the physician's final report, which Lawyer 7 received on or about May 16, 2004, had been forwarded to plaintiff's counsel on May 21, 2004.
Admission and Penalty
Lawyer 7 admitted that he had breached the undertaking and that his doing so constituted professional misconduct. The disciplinary action jointly proposed by Lawyer 7 and the Law Society was a fine of $3,000 and payment of costs of $3,750.
Application for anonymous publication
Lawyer 7 applied for anonymous publication of the hearing panel's decision that is circulated to the profession. Law Society rules require that summaries of discipline decisions be circulated to the profession and that those summaries "must identify the respondent."
The hearing panel noted that this case was particularly difficult because Lawyer 7's misconduct, though significant, cast not the slightest doubt on his integrity or competence. In such a situation, publication of a finding of professional misconduct — no matter how fully the circumstances are explained — may well risk doing damage to the lawyer's reputation that is out of proportion to the gravity of the wrong. The hearing panel referred the decision on anonymous publication for review by the Benchers. Upon review, the Benchers decided the majority of the hearing panel was correct in determining that the grievous harm likely to be suffered outweighed the interest of the public and the Law Society in full publication.