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Monday, October 8, 2012

LAWYER DISBARRED FOR TAKING $1M FROM DAD’S ESTATE

A Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel has disbarred Ottawa lawyer Leslie Vandor for taking $1 million from his father’s estate.

“The evidence in this case demonstrated misappropriations of over $2,000,000 involving multiple breaches of trust and dishonesty,” wrote hearing panel chairwoman Constance Backhouse in a Sept. 27 ruling.

“The misappropriations occurred through multiple transactions involving multiple individuals, both clients and family members. The evidence portrayed a thicket of small lies intertwined with many significant misrepresentations, all taking place over more than 10 years.”

According to the hearing panel’s finding of misconduct in May, Vandor transferred more than $1 million from his father’s estate and Vandor Investments Ltd. to himself or other companies he controlled from 1998 to 2007.

Vandor has had a prominent role in the Ottawa legal community. He authored several legal books, appeared on radio and TV shows to talk about legal issues in the area, and had a weekly column in the Ottawa Citizen.

He had also previously served as senior adviser to the attorney general of Canada and became an independent contractor with what had been Lang Michener LLP in 2006. Part of the disciplinary findings against him involved transfers out of and between the firm’s trust and mixed trust accounts from February to April 2008.

Despite the panel’s findings, Vandor argued against disbarment. “The lawyer took the position that other justice agencies had made findings different from those of this panel,” Backhouse noted in the Sept. 27 ruling.

“He produced an e-mail indicating that the Montreal police had decided to drop the criminal charges that had been laid against him.”

The panel, however, maintained disbarment was appropriate.

“Here, apart from co-operation during the law society’s investigation phase and no prior disciplinary record, there are no mitigating circumstances,” wrote Backhouse.

“Indeed, there is nothing that one could characterize as exceptional extenuating circumstances or compelling mitigating evidence of unique circumstances.”

CHARLES ROACH A ‘POWERFUL ADVOCATE’

A man who would “stand up for his principles,” Toronto lawyer Charles Roach died last week before he could realize his dream of Canadian citizenship without swearing an oath to the Queen.

“He was a powerful advocate,” says fellow lawyer Selwyn Pieters, who met Roach in 1990 at a protest against police shootings of black people.

“He was one of the very few lawyers that was on the picket line when there was a police shooting or some other misdeeds by the police that required a public response.”

Roach fought many battles. Despite a struggle with brain cancer, the 79-year-old civil rights lawyer was still fighting his way through the courts in his bid to become a Canadian citizen without swearing the oath, something he felt was unconstitutional. He died, however, on Oct. 2.

Over the years, Pieters and Roach would see each other at rallies, seminars, and conferences. But most recently, Pieters had gone from fighting beside Roach to fighting for him as one of his lawyers in his bid for citizenship.

While the outcome of his official citizenship might be uncertain, Roach leaves a legacy of accomplishment in Canada. He immigrated from his birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago in 1955 and found himself inspired by a prominent figure who took her stand that year — Rosa Parks. His own journey started as a law student at the University of Toronto. He was called to the bar in 1963 and opened his own practice in 1968.

Roach took up the fight for those seeking refugee status and the rights of migrant workers throughout the 1970s, and had a hand in the Movement of Minority Electors in 1978. He also co-founded the Black Action Defence Committee in the 1980s and battled for civilian control of policing.

Although he was a permanent resident of Canada, he never forgot his birthplace. Roach was a central figure, for example, in the creation of Caribana in 1967.

“He sang and he sang everywhere,” says Pieters. “It didn’t matter to Charlie. My favourite memory was him having us sing at events.

I miss the man already. I saw him two weeks before he died, so I was very fortunate to have a chance to say goodbye. It’s a loss for the entire community.”

Pieters, however, won’t be giving up the battle to have his friend recognized as a Canadian citizen. The case, with three other plaintiffs, is back in court July 23.

“Stand up for your principles,” says Pieters in reference to what he thinks Roach would want Canadians to know.

“Fight for whatever you believe in — win, lose, or draw.”

EMPLOYMENT LAW FIRM TOPS FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

Employment law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP has made the Profit/Chatelaine 2012 top 100 list of Canadian women entrepreneurs.

“It’s our 10th-year anniversary, so it’s a great seal of approval,” says partner Janice Rubin.

The list, running for its 14th year and for the first time in collaboration with Chatelaine, celebrates women’s accomplishments in growing and running businesses.

Ranking 51st on the list, Rubin Thomlinson can also claim another accomplishment as the only law firm on it. “We’re thrilled to be on it, particularly because we are the only law firm on the list,” says Rubin.

The honour is important, says Rubin, because women partners at senior and equity levels are still underrepresented in the profession. She credits the firm’s “fantastic team” and “unbelievably wonderful clients” for their role in landing Rubin Thomlinson on the list.

“We’re in great company,” she says.

CROWN FACING OVER-80 CHARGE ON OCT. 17

An assistant Crown attorney in Thunder Bay, Ont., is due in court this month on a charge of driving over 80.

Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General, has confirmed that Karen Scullion, an assistant Crown attorney in Thunder Bay, is facing a charge of driving over 80 following an incident in May.

According to CBC News, the Ontario Provincial Police allege Scullion was parked on a road in Oliver Paipoonge, a municipality west of Thunder Bay, on May 29 and was behind the wheel when another vehicle hit her car from behind.

The matter is next in court in Thunder Bay on Oct. 17.

“The employee is on leave and as this is a human resources matter, we cannot comment further,” said Crawley.

NEW PROGRAM TO COVER PARALEGALS, LAWYERS

The Law Society of Upper Canada is launching a confidential assistance program aimed at supporting lawyers and now paralegals in Ontario who are experiencing a personal or professional crisis.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, the program will offer a variety of services including confidential peer-to-peer counseling.

The services aren’t new to lawyers.

The Ontario Lawyers’ Assistance Program (OLAP) has received more than  $3 million in funding from the law society and LawPRO since 2006. However, in order to ensure paralegals also have access to the services, the law society and LawPRO will be ending their funding for OLAP at the end of 2012 in favour of the new assistance program.

INAUGURAL MCMURTRY FELLOWS NAMED

Osgoode Hall Law School has named three lawyers as its first McMurtry fellows.

The three fellows are Raj Anand of WeirFoulds LLP, Joseph Arvay of Arvay Finlay in Vancouver, and sole practitioner Fay Faraday. A committee composed of student representatives and Osgoode staff selected the recipients.

The fellows will mentor students and lawyers engaged in experiential education activities by spending a term, or part of one, at Osgoode. Each will have an office, administrative support, and a stipend while in residence.

Other contributions may involve teaching, participating in research projects, delivering public and faculty lectures, participating in Osgoode’s mooting and lawyering programs, and assisting with institutional projects in their areas of interest and expertise.

The McMurtry fellowship honours Osgoode graduate and former attorney general and chief justice Roy McMurtry.

As the first program of its kind in Canada, the fellowship complements Osgoode’s recent introduction of an experiential education requirement.

The fellows “will play a vital role in helping to connect our students, faculty, and staff with broader practice networks, insights, and expertise,” said Osgoode dean Lorne Sossin.

“They will help build bridges between the law school and the community to advance experiential education.”

LCO CONSIDERING FORESTRY WAGE ACT

On Oct. 1, the Law Commission of Ontario launched the first stage of a project considering reforms of the Forestry Workers Lien for Wages Act.

The project will develop recommendations for changes to the act as its terminology and procedures haven’t changed since 1891. “Recent cases have shown that the act does not reflect modern logging practices or legal processes,” said law commission executive director Patricia Hughes.

“If it is to fulfil its purpose of protecting workers in the logging industry, reform is essential.”

The law commission says the act, which currently applies only to northern Ontario and the County of Haliburton, frustrates workers’ attempts to protect their interests because interpreting the law in contemporary circumstances necessitates complex and costly litigation.

The consultation paper is available at lco-cdo.org.

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