Monday, May 5, 2014

A Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel has disbarred a Toronto lawyer after finding he had concealed $1.4 million in assets from his creditors before his bankruptcy discharge.

According to the findings, Paul Robson failed to disclose his shares in one company and his “future interest” in another company while he was an undischarged bankrupt.

While Robson argued his conduct hadn’t affected his clients, the panel found he couldn’t remain a member of the legal profession.

“Although the lawyer is correct in his submission that his conduct did not affect any of his clients, it is important to note the serious impact of the conduct on the lawyer’s creditors,” wrote the panel chaired by Bencher ChristopherBredt.

“The effect of the lawyer’s conduct was that in excess of $1.4 million in assets was intentionally concealed from the creditors. Although the lawyer was ultimately ordered to repay the trustee the amounts concealed, there is no evidence before us that this was ever done.”

Joe Groia and the Law Society of Upper Canada remain at loggerheads as both sides are challenging an appeal panel ruling that was partly favourable to the Toronto lawyer in the long-running civility case.

The law society recently filed a cross-appeal at the Divisional Court seeking to reinstate the LSUC hearing panel’s earlier decisions that imposed a two-month suspension and a $250,000 costs order on Groia. It was in response to Groia’s appeal filed with the Divisional Court last month.

In its cross-appeal, the LSUC argues the hearing panel’s assessment in the case “was reasonable and entitled to deference before the hearing panel. The appeal panel erred in law by concluding that the reasons of the reviewing courts should be given only limited weight.”

It adds the hearing panel made no legal error in levying the two-month suspension and that the appeal panel erred in reducing the costs order.

For his part, Groia is seeking to dismiss the misconduct case against him related to incivility during his defence of Bre-X Minerals Ltd. geologist John Felderhof or, in the alternative, send the matter to a hearing before a different hearing panel. He’s also looking to quash the costs order, since reduced to $200,000 by the appeal panel, as well as the one-month suspension it ordered.

“The appeal panel’s decision endorses the LSUC’s unprecedented and dangerous disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer,” states the Divisional Court notice of appeal filed by Groia’s counsel, Earl Cherniak and Jasmine Akbarali of Lerners LLP.

Legal Aid Ontario is asking for lawyers’ feedback on a pilot project designed to manage conflict of interest issues in family law cases.

After consultations with the Law Society of Upper Canada, LAO launched a program that would inform LAO clients that staff who represent them may be assisting their opponents as well. Under the pilot project, staff would seek clients’ consent to provide services when such circumstances arose.

LAO says it met with LSUC representatives to discuss modifying the conflict management project and is now seeking feedback on the program.

Lawyers can send comments or questions about the program to Roderick Bennett at [email protected].

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

According to the poll, 58 per cent of respondents disagree with the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold a ruling that found Métis people to be Indians under s. 91(24) of the Constitution Act.

In Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) v. Daniels, the appeal court restated the Federal Court’s earlier decision to declare: “Métis are included as ‘Indians’ within the meaning of section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.”

Construction on a new courthouse in Thunder Bay, Ont., is now complete.

The courthouse, which brings together all court services in the region under one roof between Brodie and Archibald streets, is fully operational.

The design of the building reflects Thunder Bay’s natural environment and aboriginal elements, according to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

“The Thunder Bay courthouse is another example of our commitment to building courthouses that meet the highest standards for accessibility, sustainability, security, and technology, including an aboriginal conference settlement suite, the first of its kind in Ontario,” said Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur.       

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