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Monday, November 11, 2013

NO COMPENSATION FOR JP WHO MISLED POLICE

A Justices of the Peace Review Council hearing panel has rejected former justice of the peace Donna Phillips’ request for compensation for her legal costs associated with her misconduct proceedings.

The panel found Phillips had committed misconduct when she misled a London, Ont., police officer who was investigating her daughter, Mary Anne Kechego, for running a red light. At the time of the investigation, Phillips told the officer she didn’t know the driver well, that she was her niece, and that her name was Titchner, according to the hearing panel’s earlier decision.

“We are of the firm view that the average reasonable Canadian fully apprised of all the facts would be shocked if any compensation were awarded,” the hearing panel chaired by Paul Taylor said in its Nov. 4 decision.

The panel had recommended Phillips’ removal from office, but she quickly tendered a letter of retirement. According to the decision this month, she made the compensation request because of the “extraordinary circumstances” in the case.

“The extraordinary circumstance is that an extra hearing day was necessary due to the sudden and unexpected illness of one of the members of the panel,” the panel stated in its ruling. But it found there was going to be an adjournment in any event.

MODEST RAISES PREDICTED

Most legal positions in Canada will see a slight rise in average starting salaries, according to Robert Half Legal’s 2014 salary guide.

Starting salaries will increase by 2.2 per cent next year, the guide says.

“With a continued uptick in business activity and corresponding need for legal services, the market is tightening for lawyers and legal support professionals with expertise in litigation, corporate law, and other high-demand practice areas,” said Robert Half Legal’s Billie Watkins.

“To attract and retain top talent, more employers in the legal field are adjusting compensation ranges and offering attractive bonus plans.”

For lawyers, Robert Half Legal predicts average starting salaries will increase by 3.3 per cent.

Lawyers with more than 10 years of experience at small and mid-size firms will see the biggest gain, according to the guide. It predicts their pay raise will come in at 4.3 per cent.

JUSTICE JOAN LAX DIES

Superior Court justice Joan Lax died last week.

Lax died suddenly on Nov. 4 at the Toronto General Hospital, according to an obituary published last week.

Lax had become a supernumerary judge in January 2011. Prior to joining the bench, Lax was a former assistant dean and director of admissions at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She was also a former bencher at the Law Society of Upper Canada. After her call to the bar in 1978, she worked at Toronto law firm Weir & Foulds.

“Justice Lax was a great friend of the law school,” U of T’s law school said in a press release following her death.

MIDDLE STEP TOUTED FOR NON-CO-OPERATION

When it comes to dealing with lawyers who don’t co-operate with Law Society of Upper Canada investigations, the regulator should consider another step before launching a formal prosecution, according to a Toronto defence lawyer.

Bill Trudell, who often represents lawyers before law society hearing panels, says duty counsel should first intervene and reach out to the lawyer who’s the subject of an investigation.

“There needs to be a middle step. I think there should be an intervening step,” he says.

Trudell suggests creating a group of lawyers who offer to contact the person who’s not responding to see whether they can help.

“I think it would save a lot of prosecutions, probably save money, and certainly save people from getting into a situation like this,” he says.

Many lawyers, Trudell adds, don’t fully appreciate the damage they’re doing — including the possibility of getting a permanent discipline record — by not co-operating with law society investigations. They may not respond because they’re afraid, he says.

“You have to understand that as a self-regulator, one of the things we give up is the right to remain silent. We must respond, and I don’t think lawyers understand that,” he adds.

Trudell recently represented lawyer Matthew Igbinosun, who received a one-month suspension for not co-operating with a law society investigation. Trudell argued that Igbinosun should get a reprimand, but the hearing panel felt differently.

“A significant part of my finding — and Mr. Trudell has said how Mr. Igbinosun engaged — is, yes, he engaged, but the finding is he did not co-operate,” said hearing panel chairwoman Susan Elliott.

The panel sought to send a strong message to the bar that not co-operating with a law society investigation is unacceptable, Trudell says, adding it’s a message that has yet to sink in with some lawyers.

POLL RESULTS

The results of the latest Law Times online poll are in.

The majority of respondents agree with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to reinstate articling evaluations. About 66 per cent of participants said the evaluations are essential to ensuring the quality of articling experiences.

LSUC benchers approved a motion in October that would reintroduce articling evaluations, something the regulator had phased out in 2009.

The law society is currently unsure what the new evaluation will look like, but the aim is to ensure that students who go through articling and those who do the alternative law practice program have equivalent skills.

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The Law Society of Upper Canada is requiring all licensed lawyers to write a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. Do you agree with this requirement?
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