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Lawyer who had sex with family law client in joint retainer in hot water for disclosure

In the months after a Kingston, Ont., hockey coach appeared in Jehuda Kaminer’s office with a 14-year-old player in tow seeking to emancipate her from her parents, Kaminer wrestled with whether or not he should tell the man’s wife, who he would later become romantically involved with, about his encounter with the pair.

A panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada heard the case against Jehuda Kaminer last week.
A panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada heard the case against Jehuda Kaminer last week.
Kaminer, 64, has admitted to having a sexual relationship with the coach’s ex-wife, J.M. He described the encounter with the coach, D.M., and the girl as a run-of-the-mill event but noted he warned him it was highly inappropriate given the state of the D.M.’s separation from J.M. Kaminer had already been representing both spouses in their separation.

The sole practitioner, who was representing both D.M. and J.M. in their joint separation and subsequent divorce at the time, described what he felt as he made the decision to disclose the confidential information to J.M. during a hearing before a three-member Law Society of Upper Canada disciplinary panel in Toronto last week.

The girl wasn’t the couple’s child but a hockey player who at one point had been living with them before their separation. D.M. and J.M. have their own 16-year-old child.

“Mr. M. had brought the 14-year-old girl to me to be emancipated from her parents some time in March of 2006. The girl was living with both Mr. M. and Mrs. M. prior to their separation so that Mr. M. could coach her in hockey, from my understanding.

I thought the optics were really terrible and told Mr. M. that it wasn’t appropriate given the state of his marriage. I also advised the girl not to live with him. I thought that was pretty good advice, given the situation.

“I had no idea there was a sexual relationship going on between them at the time.”
D.M. faced criminal charges for sexually exploiting and assaulting the 14-year-old girl in June 2006 but wasn’t convicted criminally until 2008.

Several months prior to the criminal charges against D.M., both spouses had filed for joint separation and retained Kaminer.

In July 2006, J.M. learned of the criminal charges against D.M. and came to Kaminer seeking an immediate divorce. But Kaminer advised J.M. to wait a year rather than cite abuse or adultery as grounds, which he said would be difficult to prove.

Some time thereafter, Kaminer and J.M. began their sexual relationship. It lasted for six weeks.
According to a notice of application filed in June 2011 by the law society, disclosing the information shared between D.M., the girl, and Kaminer to J.M. in October 2006 while still maintaining a sexual relationship with her amounted to professional misconduct.

The law society also alleges Kaminer acted in a conflict of interest by representing both former spouses while initiating and maintaining a sexual relationship with J.M.

During that time, Kaminer also allegedly failed to obtain a divorce order for the pair; to draft a will for D.M.; and to deposit more than $2,000 from the pair into his trust account, the LSUC alleges. None of the allegations have been proven.

Pausing to wipe his eyes under his dark-rimmed glasses and speaking softly, Kaminer said that while he admits that engaging in a sexual relationship with J.M. was wrong and immediately stopped corresponding with her once he “woke up” and realized “the state he found himself in,” he had never seen any red flags from the pair to indicate that he should advise them to seek outside counsel at any time.

As for the money he received in trust, Kaminer told the hearing panel he hadn’t intended to put it into his general account rather than his trust account. He said that as a sole practitioner, he always asked people to make cheques out to him.

“You have to appreciate this isn’t easy for me,” Kaminer told the hearing panel during cross-examination of his testimony.

“I told them both right upfront that I draw the line with any controversy and if there is any, I will send them right away.

Yes, I had a sexual relationship with her and I was in a state of shock when I realized the sorry position I found myself in. So, I just stopped calling her and never told him of the relationship I had with his wife.”

Counsel for Kaminer added during the hearing that Kaminer felt it was necessary to disclose the information to J.M. in order to protect her interests as his client.

But the law society’s counsel in the matter, Lisa Freeman, argued Kaminer should have done more.

“The fact is that he had a sexual relationship with a client on the other side of the matter. Mrs. M. wasn’t aware that the girl was living with Mr. M. at the time of the separation, and it wasn’t the kind of conflict that could have been solved with consent,” Freeman told the hearing panel.

“Obviously, it’s a family law case and one should know having sex with his client’s wife is unethical. Mr. Kaminer’s misconduct took place at the precise moment when he knew a sexual relationship was taking place with the 14-year-old child and he ought to either have disclosed that information in writing or not accepted the divorce retainer.

He never should have disclosed the particulars of his meeting in March with J.M.”
According to the law society, Kaminer has since reimbursed J.M. in full for the money he received in trust along with an additional $200 given to her without explanation.

Kaminer hasn’t accounted for the remaining $2,000 owed to D.M., the LSUC alleges.
Hearing panel members Bob Aaron, Raj Anand, and Marion Boyd have reserved their decision in the matter until a later date.

Comments   

+7 # Barbara Buddington 2012-03-27 07:27
I am not a family lawyer, and perhaps that is why after reading this several times I still can't understand what's going on here. Sounds bad whatever it is.
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+1 # Kali Dass 2012-03-27 18:42
It's bad luck not all lawyer understand law and many don't understand what is happening between lawyers and clients in out of courts. Unfortunate state of affairs.
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+15 # David Halkett 2012-03-27 21:04
Barb, it is not a well written article but it seems he was acting for the two re a joint divorce (mistake), then he saw the husband re emancipating the girl (second mistake), then started a relationship with his client (third mistake) and told her about the meeting he had with her husband (fourth mistake). Basically, he was stupid.
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+6 # Philip Gottheil 2012-03-30 17:05
I can't make heads or tails out of the facts. Probably the worst written piece of journalism I have ever seen.
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0 # terry mckee 2012-04-22 23:55
Remember the slickTV show LA Law back in the late 80's? The firm's family lawyer, who was depicted as a bit of a sleaze, was acting for the husband in a divorce case and he ended up sleeping with the ex wife of said husband. BUT even he didn't do that until the separation agreement had been signed and the money had changed hands! and I didn't see a problem with that. But this case, all I can say is wow!
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0 # Andrew McNeil 2013-01-08 00:05
Well if the lawyer were an ex-bencher all he'd be facing is a slap on the wrist (http://canlii.ca/t/1r0hz). It'll be interesting to see what the Law Society does when the lawyer is a sole practitioner without the big names on his side.
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0 # Buford Pusser 2013-01-22 18:12
While the story lacks certain details and perspective, I agree wholeheartedly with Andrew McNeil's comments above! On the assumption that the solicitor in question did in fact screw up (majorly) I would be interested in his dicipline history, if any, At his age and experience level, it would cetainly be relevant, in that the pressures and. stress facing "sole practioners", let alone all lawyers, and the fact that we are human beings, who sometimes stumbls, and commit what are viewed as acts of misconduct, should be judged within the context of the many years of practice and whether this lawyer is a "bad egg" or someone who made a serious, but out of character mistake in his profession and in his life! Hopefully the ivory tower can come to terms with those of us who are not as flawless as the Bay Street "Club"would be seen to be! But then what do I know? I am a sole practitioner!
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