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.
Raymond William Barton
Called to the Bar: September 13, 1983
Non-practising: January 1, 2004
Ceased membership: January 1, 2006
Discipline hearings: September 28, 2006 and February 12, 2007 (Facts and Verdict), July 3, 2008 (Penalty)
Panel: G. Glen Ridgway, QC, Chair, Ralston Alexander, QC and Robert Brun, QC
Reports issued: April 27, 2007 (2007 LSBC 24) and August 14, 2008 (2008 LSBC 25)
Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society and no-one on behalf of the Respondent
On March 8, 2006 the Law Society issued a citation alleging that Raymond William Barton had engaged in unauthorized practice under the Legal Profession Act by performing or offering legal services to WF and his spouse, MF, for a fee, while a non-practising member of the Law Society.
Early in 2004, WF became aware that a mineral claim he purchased from WP was much smaller than he had believed when he registered the bill of sale at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Mineral Titles Branch) the previous year. In June or July 2004, WF retained Barton to determine the true size of his claim. WF and MF both told the Law Society that WF had gone to see Barton as a lawyer.
In several subsequent meetings, some of which were also attended by MF, WF and Barton discussed various issues relating to verification of the mineral claim, including terms and delivery of payment for Barton's services and for the services of third parties. The testimony before the hearing panel was consistent on the point that Barton had communicated his status as a non-practising lawyer to WF at the time of their first meeting.
However, the testimony was inconsistent regarding the amounts and terms of various payments made by and on behalf of WF, and the terms of engagement between WF, other parties and Barton.
The hearing panel determined that when the course of dealings between WF and Barton was viewed as a whole, Barton's actions constituted the unauthorized practice of law, but not professional misconduct.
The panel found it significant that WF initially contacted Barton because he believed him to be a lawyer, and that in their first meeting Barton told WF he expected to be reinstated in the near future. The absence of a formal accounting and the resulting uncertainty regarding Barton's handling of funds paid by WF were noted by the panel as illustrations of the risk to the public caused by the unregulated practice of law.
The panel accepted that Barton clearly told WF that he was not a practising lawyer when he took conduct of the matter, and that he genuinely believed his practising status was about to be reinstated by the Law Society shortly after the retainer commenced. The panel concluded Barton's conduct was not, in all the circumstances, dishonourable or disgraceful and accordingly fell short of professional misconduct.
Barton did not appear at the penalty hearing but applied for an adjournment of the proceedings by way of an email transmission. The panel was satisfied that Barton was aware of the July 3, 2008 hearing date since late October 2007 and, therefore, denied Barton's application for an adjournment.
The panel emphasized the seriousness of the unauthorized practice of law given that Barton had previously been called to the Bar. Further, the panel noted that Barton did not appear to acknowledge his misconduct and took no steps to redress the impropriety.
After consideration, the panel ordered that Barton:
1. pay a fine in the amount of $1,500; and
2. pay costs in the amount of $7,500.
Andrew James Bonfield
Called to the Bar: May 19, 2000
Discipline hearing: June 25, 2008
Panel: Leon Getz, QC, Chair, Kathryn Berge, QC, David Renwick, QC
Report issued: July 29, 2008 (2008 LSBC 23)
Counsel: Eric Wredenhagen for the Law Society, Jerome Ziskrout for Andrew Bonfield
Andrew Bonfield was called to the Bar in May 2000 and has operated as a sole practitioner since September 2000.
From approximately 2002 to 2007, Bonfield was not registered for the remittance of British Columbia Provincial Sales Tax. Bonfield collected the sales tax from his clients, but failed to remit the funds to the provincial government.
In 2005 and 2006, Bonfield collected Goods & Services Tax from his clients, but failed to remit the funds to the Canada Revenue Agency at all or in a timely manner.
In 2005, Bonfield submitted a Trust Report to the Law Society representing that his practice had paid all PST and GST remittances to the government when due, when in fact that statement was not true.
Admission and Penalty
Bonfield admitted that he failed to register for and remit funds due to the provincial government for the PST, and that he failed to remit funds due to the Canada Revenue Agency for the GST. He acknowledged that he was grossly negligent in incorrectly representing this information to the Law Society. He further admitted that these actions constitute professional misconduct.
Pursuant to Law Society Rule 4-22, the hearing panel accepted Bonfield's admissions and ordered the following disciplinary action:
1. a fine in the amount of $5,000 payable by December 31, 2009;
2. costs in the amount of $1,500 payable by December 31, 2009; and
3. delivery of quarterly statutory declarations to the Law Society for the period commencing July 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2009. These declarations will set out for the preceding quarter:
(1) total billings to clients,
(2) amounts billed in respect of PST and GST,
(3) amounts collected in respect of PST and GST, and
(4) amounts remitted to the provincial and federal governments in respect of PST and GST.
Bert Donald Currie
Fort St. John, BC
Called to the Bar: May 12, 1981
Discipline hearing: June 20, 2008
Panel: Glen Ridgway, QC, Chair, Emily Reid, QC, Robert Punnett
Report issued: July 14, 2008 (2008 LSBC 21)
Counsel: Eric Wredenhagen for the Law Society, Bert Donald Currie on his own behalf
Bert Currie was retained by client JW in May 2007 in connection with his arrest. JW consulted Currie about the matter and provided him with a $750 retainer and two post-dated cheques. JW was later advised that police would not be proceeding with charges. He subsequently attended Currie's office, at which time the post-dated cheques were returned and he was advised that either part or all of the retainer would be returned.
Over the next several months, JW attempted to contact Currie's office with regard to the return of the retainer. By November 2007, he had not received either a statement of account or return of the retainer. He subsequently complained to the Law Society.
Currie failed to respond in a timely manner or at all to Law Society correspondence
pertaining to this complaint, including letters from the Law Society dated November 26, 2007, December 18, 2007, January 3, 2008, January 15, 2008 and January 24, 2008.
Admission and Penalty
The panel noted that failure to respond to communications from the Law Society is a serious matter. Often the matter that originated the complaint does not proceed to a discipline panel; what does proceed is a citation for a lawyer's failure to respond to Law Society communications with respect to that complaint.
Currie admitted that his failure to respond promptly or at all to correspondence
from the Law Society was contrary to Chapter 13, Rule 3 of the Professional Conduct Handbook. He further admitted that his conduct constituted professional misconduct.
Pursuant to Law Society Rule 4-22, the hearing panel accepted Currie's admission and ordered that he:
1. Pay a fine in the amount of $1,500; and
2. Pay costs in the amount of $1,000.
Edward George Jackson
North Vancouver, BC
Called to the Bar: May 15, 1992
Hearing date: April 15, 2008
Panel: Joost Blom, QC, Chair, Richard Stewart, QC, Ronald Tindale
Reports issued: September 12, 2008 (2008 LSBC 28)
Counsel: Maureen Boyd and Eric Wredenhagen for the Law Society and no-one on behalf of Edward Jackson
On June 13, 2007, a citation was issued against Edward Jackson, alleging three counts of misconduct. The allegations were failure to meet professional financial obligations incurred or assumed in the course of practice, failure to reply promptly or at all to the communications from the Law Society, and failure to safeguard confidential client materials.
Failure to Meet Professional Financial Obligations
Jackson asked a member of the Law Society to attend in his place as In-Custody Duty Counsel at North Vancouver Provincial Court on December 15, 2004. Jackson agreed to pay the member the amount payable by the Legal Services Society in respect of such attendance. The member attended and completed the required duty counsel billing form and provided it to Jackson. Jackson received payment from the Legal Services Society in early 2005.
In April 2005, Jackson advised the member of personal circumstances that made it difficult for him to provide payment. While the member did not then object to a delay, a complaint was made to the Law Society on August 24, 2006 with regard to non-payment. The member received payment in April 2007.
Failure to Respond to the Law Society
On April 19, 2006, the Law Society received a complaint from Mr. and Mrs. R, clients of Jackson. Jackson responded to the complaint in a letter to the Law Society on May 8, 2006, outlining some personal problems he was having and advising that he had returned the Clients' file materials in late April 2006.
The Law Society wrote several letters to Jackson seeking information about the scope of his practice and whether he had any arrangements with another lawyer to assist him in the event he was unable to meet his obligations to his clients. A substantive response from Jackson was not received.
Failure to Safeguard Confidential Client Materials
On November 1, 2006, the Law Society was advised that Jackson had been evicted from his apartment and that a file cabinet containing confidential client files had been removed by the landlord. On that same day, the Law Society received a telephone call from RL, who identified himself as a friend of Jackson's, advising that he was arranging to have Jackson's property, including the client files, taken to a secure storage facility.
On November 8, 2006, as the files remained unsecured, Law Society staff took into safekeeping all files with confidential client information from Jackson's apartment. The Law Society wrote to Jackson to advise that they had taken possession of the files and to contact them immediately to discuss arrangements for suitable storage. Jackson did not contact the Law Society to view or take possession of the files.
Admission and Penalty
Jackson admits that he failed to meet his professional financial obligations and that this conduct constitutes professional misconduct. Jackson also admits that he received and read five letters from the Law Society, that he failed to provide a substantive response to such letters, promptly or at all, and that his failure to respond constitutes professional misconduct. Jackson further admits that his failure to ensure the privacy and safekeeping of confidential client information is contrary to his duties and that such an act constitutes professional misconduct.
On the basis of submissions of both the Law Society and the Respondent and taking into account the evidence of professional misconduct, Jackson's professional conduct record, and the multiple incidents over extended periods of time, the Panel found that Jackson's actions constitute a serious matter and require a significant penalty. The hearing panel ordered that Jackson, who was currently a non-practising member;
1. be suspended for one month, effective immediately upon Jackson fulfilling the requirements, paying the fees and becoming a practising lawyer;
2. be referred to the Practice Standards Committee, effective at the same time as 1.; and
3. pay costs in the amount of $2,000 by August 31, 2010.
Richard Neil Toews
Called to the Bar: June 4, 1985
Discipline hearing: August 28, 2008
Panel: Carol Hickman, Chair, William Sullivan, QC, Robert Brun, QC
Report issued: September 19, 2008 (2008 LSBC 29)
Counsel: Gerald Cuttler for the Law Society and Robin McFee, QC for Richard Toews
In March 2004, Richard Toews was retained by SC to prepare a separation agreement between her and her husband, JR. SC provided Toews with full details about their incomes and assets, including the value of their Squamish property, estimated at $240,000.
After the separation agreement was concluded, SC and JR decided to sell the property. In June 2004 they retained realtor DS who listed the property for sale for $285,000. The listing expired in September and the property was taken off the market.
In March 2005 SC re-listed the property, this time retaining GB as her realtor. It was initially listed at $265,000 but was reduced to $260,000 in April. In May 2005, Toews asked DS, SC's first realtor, to write up an offer to purchase the Squamish property for $225,000 in the name of L. Ltd, a company which Toews controlled. Toews told DS he had previous dealings with SC and did not want her to know about his involvement in the purchase.
When presented with the offer, SC asked her current realtor, GB, to find out who was behind the offer. She was told that the client did not want to be identified. The property was eventually sold to Company L. Ltd. for $247,000.
Admission and Penalty
Toews admitted that he professionally misconducted himself, first by failing to disclose that he was, in essence, the offeror and, second, by failing to seek and obtain SC's informed consent that she wanted to sell the said real property to a company that he controlled.
The panel accepted Toews' conditional admission and the penalty proposed under Rule 4-22. Accordingly, the panel ordered that Toews pay the following on or before October 31, 2008:
1. A fine in the amount of $2,500; and
2. Costs of the proceedings in the amount of $3,333.
The panel noted that their decision is not to be taken as a precedent that, in all cases where a lawyer is offering to purchase an asset from a former client, in addition to disclosure of the lawyer's interest, that the lawyer must both "seek and obtain informed consent" before proceeding with the matter. That will depend on all of the circumstances in each case.
Called to the bar: December 15, 1995 (previously called in Ontario in 1992)
Hearing Dates: July 30, 2008
Panel: James Vilvang, QC, Chair, Joost Blom, QC, Leon Getz, QC
Report issued: August 6, 2008 (2008 LSBC 24)
Counsel: Maureen Boyd for the Law Society and Patrick Lewis for Jeffery-Emanuel Wittmann
In April 2001 Jeffery-Emanuel Wittmann was employed as an independent contractor for Company B. He provided legal services in exchange for a salary of at least $4,000 per month. He issued bills to B that included GST and PST.
B paid Wittmann regularly for his services, including defined amounts of GST and PST until March 31, 2003 when he stopped working for B because of a change in company ownership. During that same period between 2001 and 2003 Wittmann was also providing services to other clients through Wittmann Law Corporation.
Sometime during 2002, Wittmann began experiencing personal financial difficulties and advised the Law Society that he declared bankruptcy on November 18, 2003. He applied for discharge two years later and was granted a conditional discharge from bankruptcy in November 2005.
On February 23, 2004 Wittmann filed a GST return for a period from January to November 2003 and remitted net tax owing in the amount he calculated as $972.93. He failed to remit GST due to the Canada Revenue Agency in the total amount of $21,528.28 and instead used those funds for his own purposes.
In May 2003 the CRA served a garnishing order upon Witmann's then employer, but no funds were remitted because of the firm's view that the order was defective. Thus, the unpaid GST was subsumed as a debt within Witmann's bankruptcy.
During that same timeframe that Wittmann worked for Company B he collected $13,467.31 in PST from his clients, but failed to remit funds due to the provincial government. The unpaid PST debt was subsumed within Wittmann's bankruptcy.
Admission and Penalty
Witmann admits that between April 2001 and March 2003 he collected GST and PST from his clients but failed to remit the funds due to the CRA and provincial government, as required by law. He further admits those failures are professional misconduct and are contrary to Chapter 2, Rule 2 of the Professional Conduct Handbook.
The panel accepted Witmann's admission and proposed penalty under Rule 4-22, and ordered that by January 31, 2010 he pay:
1. a $3,000 fine; and
2. costs of $1,500.