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Lawyer who slept with family law client in joint retainer battles suspension bid

|Written By Yamri Taddese

Noting his “solid work” as a lawyer, a Kingston, Ont., sole practitioner who slept with a client he was representing in a family law matter on a joint retainer is battling the Law Society of Upper Canada’s bid to suspend him for six to nine months.

In December, a hearing panel found Jehuda Kaminer to have been in conflict of interest for having sex with a client whose husband he was also representing. The clients, identified only as Mr. M. and Ms. M., had retained the lawyer to complete their divorce in 2006. During that time, Kaminer started a six-week affair with her that included dinners and evenings at the casino.

Kaminer was also representing Mr. M. in relation to criminal charges for sexually exploiting a minor who was living with him and his wife.

Mr. M., a hockey coach, once brought a 14-year-old girl to Kaminer to discuss emancipating her from her parents. A hearing panel found Kaminer disclosed confidential information related to the criminal matter to Ms. M.

At his penalty hearing on March 21, the 65-year-old lawyer lamented the effects of his legal troubles, which he said had stirred “sensational” media coverage, on his income and mental health.

“I used to love going to work. It’s become a lot more harder. Part of that is the devastating effect of this proceeding,” Kaminer told a panel chaired by Raj Anand.

“For a while, I have been losing weight, I have been under stress,” he added, calling the proceedings “absolutely catastrophic.”

Once the case made the headlines, the result was a “crazy decline” in his revenue, Kaminer added.

He also sought compassion from the law society by detailing a series of “bad business decisions” that have caused him to lose his home and savings. “I’m rebuilding my life at the age of 65 without pension plans. It’s all gone. I’m starting again,” he said.

“I can’t afford a suspension,” he added.

“That’s my nightmare right now. I can’t envisage being able to carry on with any suspension.”

Law society’s counsel Lisa Freeman told the panel Kaminer only dwells on the impact of the case on himself and at no point expressed regret for his actions or apologized to his clients.

Kaminer has “absolutely no insight or remorse,” Freeman said.

“He hasn’t shown the panel that he has changed,” she added, noting Kaminer offered no explanation for what led to his actions.

Freeman also noted Kaminer refers to his relationship with Ms. M. as something he “may or may not have had.”

“He attempted to sow the seed of doubt that it didn’t really happen,” she said.

“He actually just minimized the relationship.”

Still, Kaminer called his actions “an understandable error but error nonetheless,” adding that the weight of his difficulties is out of proportion to the mistake he made.

After “waking up” and realizing his relationship with Ms. M. was inappropriate, Kaminer said he cut off all relations with both clients, whose divorce was therefore not complete. Kaminer also faced an accusation of losing his clients’ marriage certificate, which he produced at his sentencing hearing. He attributed the mishap to a filing error.

During his testimony, Kaminer defended his record beyond the case at hand. He described himself as a “fierce advocate” for more than 6,000 clients and a community champion who has served on several hospital boards.

“As a counsel, I think I’ve done some solid work,” said Kaminer.

But in its ruling in December, the hearing panel considered the law society’s submissions on the problematic circumstances surrounding Kaminer’s clients’ case. “We accept that there is no evidence of Ms. M.’s financial or psychological vulnerability, and law society counsel candidly conceded that Ms. M. would not regard herself as vulnerable,” wrote Anand.

“Nevertheless, the law society submitted that her status as a family law litigant in circumstances of separation and divorce, as well as the shocking discovery from the criminal proceedings that her husband had allegedly been having a sexual relationship with their 14-year-old boarder (an allegation that was subsequently proven in criminal court), were sufficient to characterize Ms. M. as vulnerable at the point when she accepted the respondent’s invitation to enter into a personal relationship.

“We accept the reasons put forward by the law society and agree that Ms. M. was emotionally vulnerable to exploitation in the fall of 2006. The nature of the legal services being provided by the lawyer are undoubtedly relevant to the issues of both vulnerability and potential for conflict of interest, and this is particularly true of family law.”

In sharing Mr. M.’s information with Ms. M., Kaminer “clearly violated his duty of loyalty to his client Mr. M., in a manner that in fact adversely affected his judgment on behalf of Mr. M.,” wrote Anand.

The law society didn’t indicate when it would release its penalty decision in Kaminer’s case.

For more, see "Lawyer who had sex with family law client in joint retainer in hot water for disclosure."

  • I approve!
    From everything that i have heard about him, he had it coming. oh well!
  • Kendra
    I agree with Cathie.People are stressed as it is when facing a legal matter,and a lawyer to exploit it further is jus just not fair.Poor Ms M.I feel for her.

    Thank you !
  • Cathie
    If anyone in Canada, let alone a lawyer and law society, feels this is acceptable behavior then this speaks volumes of the lack of morals and ability to follow rules and laws in Canada. What a vile man. Mild punishment? He has no business being a lawyer.
  • P.C.
    The Ivory Tower at work. Without condoning what this lawyer did, he made a human error, has not done so before, (or no mention of a prior conduct history) and self reported his gross error of judgment. I do agree that being a sole practitioner is a far more vulnerable state, than being in a large partnership on Bay St. and environs. Perhaps this lawyer is focusing on his own immediate problems, and not the client's, because they are all encompassing in his life and are therefore consuming him, with the prospect of a 6 mo. suspension looming, which would appear to be a draconian and disproportionate punishment to someone who has, and continues to suffer financially and otherwise. Should the punishment not fit the crime? But enough of this! Let's discuss which vintage wine we are all to have at lunch!,
  • Lisa
    I say good. There is a "code of ethics" that a lawyer takes on. He broke that and he is to be punished. Maybe now "his" hardships might be a lesson. Dont cry about how you lost your house. I bet a lot of his clients did just trying to pay him ofr his counsel. One thing i have seen over the years is that lawyers have to put morals and values out the window. They need to know that they are also accoutable for their actions. Kudos to the Law Society.
  • Terry Napora
    If the article is accurate, this lawyer shows no understanding of the impact his actions had on his client or the image of lawyers to the public.

    As a lawyer, he should of understood his audience. The committee was looking for the cause of this problem and what was being done to prevent such an incident from happening again, as well as what was done in these circumstances to make things right - sentencing 101.

    The impact on his practice is relevant but not the main issue for the committee to consider.

    The committee has to ask if this lawyer really understands his ethical duties to his clients and if he will follow through on them. How else can they get the message through than by way of a suspension?
  • Darryl Singer
    If memory serves, former bencher and biglaw lawyer George Hunter was suspended for only 2 months and had to pay a mere $2500 in costs after an affair with a family law client where he apparently used confidential information about the husband and then tried to bribe the woman into silence.

    Am I the only one that thinks the Society has a harsher standard for struggling sole practitioners than for those practising in the powerful national firms?
  • Sarah
    The difference in the Hunter case is that he self-reported and went out of his way to make it easier for the victim. For example, he cooperated in drafting an agreed statement of facts.
  • Donald Desaulniers
    This case proves to me that the Law Society is totally out of touch with reality. A mild reprimand seems appropriate, but the Law Society is seeking a long suspension. Contrast that with the ultra lenient penalties dealt out to lawyers who are obvious crooks or negligent dupes in crooked real estate schemes.
    The Law Society sickens me. Thankfully I'm retired now and no longer have to put up with its insanity.
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