|For immediate release||February 4, 2011|
Law Society concludes case involving special prosecutor Terrence Robertson
Vancouver – The Law Society of BC has concluded its case involving special prosecutor Terrence Robertson, QC.
To protect the public the Law Society ordered Robertson to undergo a conduct review because he did not disclose a $500 donation his firm made to Kash Heed’s 2009 May election campaign before accepting the role of special prosecutor investigating the same campaign.
The Law Society determined Robertson failed to meet the expected standard that requires a lawyer to disclose to his client previous connection to the parties in a matter.
The review panel, consisting of public representatives Claude Richmond and Peter B. Lloyd and senior lawyer Richard Stewart, QC, was satisfied Robertson understood the significant error in judgment he made and accepted his statement that he deeply regrets the damage his error made to the confidence in the role of special prosecutors and to Heed.
“The Law Society is satisfied with the outcome of the conduct review” said Chief Legal Officer Deborah Armour. “Terrence Robertson deeply regrets his actions, understands what he did wrong, and steps have been taken to make sure it won’t happen again. As a result we are now closing the file, with no further action.”
Members of the Law Society’s Discipline Committee reviewed the recommendation at their regular meeting January 27, 2011 and accepted the panel’s recommendation that no further action is required.
For additional information, please see the summary of the conduct review report (below).
The Law Society of British Columbia regulates the more than 10,000 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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A conduct review is a significant disciplinary measure ordered by the Law Society’s Discipline Committee to address professional conduct issues. Second only in severity to a public hearing following the issuance of a citation, it is a formal meeting between a lawyer against whom a complaint has been made and a Conduct Review Subcommittee. The purpose is to ensure the lawyer fully understands the problems that have resulted from his or her conduct, so as to prevent the same or similar circumstances from happening in the future. Once the review is complete, the Discipline Committee will consider whether further action is required. The committee will only conclude the matter once it is satisfied the lawyer has an understanding of the serious nature of the conduct and its consequences, and is not likely to repeat similar mistakes.
Terrence L. Robertson, QC
Conduct Review Subcommittee: Peter Lloyd (public-appointed non-lawyer Bencher), Claude Richmond (public-appointed non-lawyer Bencher) and Richard Stewart, QC (lawyer Bencher)
This conduct review was ordered by the Discipline Committee to address concerns arising out of Terrence L. Robertson, QC’s role as a special prosecutor in relation to possible irregularities in the Kash Heed election campaign when Robertson knew his firm had contributed $500 to Heed’s campaign.
When Robertson was appointed by the provincial government to investigate irregularities in Heed's campaign, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General asked him if there was any conflict of interest that would preclude him from accepting this appointment. Robertson asked his firm to do a conflicts search, which he said did not disclose any conflicts. He said that he considered the firm’s political contribution to Heed's campaign and concluded that there was no apparent conflict of interest or apprehension of bias. He did not disclose the political contribution to the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, even though he was aware of it at the time.
Robertson proceeded to conclude his investigation. He recommended that charges be approved against some of Heed’s campaign workers but he did not recommend any charges be filed against Heed. Upon release of Robertson’s investigation report, Heed was re-appointed to the Cabinet.
Subsequently, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General was made aware of the political contribution. He spoke with Robertson and Robertson resigned.
The results of Robertson’s poor judgment have been widely reported in the media.
The committee concluded that Robertson is aware of and deeply regrets the damage his error in judgment made to the public confidence in the role of the special prosecutor and to Heed. Robertson unreservedly acknowledged his error of interpretation and judgment, and it was clear to the committee that he fully understands and appreciates the significant error that he made. There was no information to suggest, nor did the Committee suspect, that Robertson accepted the appointment as special prosecutor for any improper motive, in particular to influence the outcome and protect Heed from prosecution.
The committee pointed out that senior lawyers are at serious risk of being over-confident in their own assessment of a situation and that can result in a form of arrogance. Robertson recognized he should have consulted others before concluding there was no conflict.
In particular, Robertson should have disclosed the fact of the political contribution to the government. His failure to do so was a breach of the Professional Conduct Handbook (Canon 3 (2)).
The Conduct Review Subcommittee is confident that Robertson fully understands the Discipline Committee’s serious concerns with his conduct. The remedial purpose of the Conduct Review has been satisfied. As a result, the Discipline Committee has determined that no further action is required.