|Editorial Obiter by Glenn Kauth|
Besides denunciation and deterrence, of course, the justice system also considers rehabilitation. It’s good, then, to see the legal profession follow a principle espoused by so many lawyers in granting a licence to practise to Kathryn Smithen.
As Law Times reported last week, Smithen has a dark past, including multiple criminal convictions and two declarations of bankruptcy. She also previously worked as an escort.
But following a day of reckoning, Smithen went on to complete her law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School despite knowing her past would be a significant hurdle at a Law Society of Upper Canada good character hearing.
Last month, a panel considering that issue granted her a licence to practise given “her commitment to her daughter, her efforts to repay her debts, her desire to further her legal education without any assurance of an entitlement to practise, her refusal to blame others for her abundance of mistakes, her openness and honesty about her former dishonesty, and the overwhelming support from her friends, her doctors, and others in the legal profession.”
Certainly, there are arguments against the decision. In particular, she was in court last year seeking to quash a 1993 compensation order against her stemming from two convictions for fraud.
She argued the court had denied the defence the right to be heard at the time of the compensation order. Last year, the Superior Court denied that application.
In the same decision, the court considered Smithen’s efforts to locate the victims set to receive the compensation.
“The primary reason the applicant wants to satisfy the compensation order after all these years is so that she can apply for and obtain a pardon. . . . She is concerned that without a pardon, her career opportunities will be severely limited.”
It’s arguable, then, that rather than demonstrating genuine remorse, Smithen was looking to cover her bases before the law society. Nevertheless, she deserves the benefit of the doubt.
It’s a good thing when society gives people second chances. At the same time, by imposing conditions on her, including therapy, a two-year mentoring agreement with lawyer Leo Adler or some other practitioner in good standing, and restrictions on any trust accounts, the panel has made a good attempt to protect the public.
The decision is an example of the profession upholding the notions of rehabilitation that it professes. Let’s hope Smithen lives up to her promise.
— Glenn Kauth
For more on this story, see "Former escort turns life around to become lawyer."