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Toronto lawyer fined in cheating scandal

|Written By Robert Todd

A Toronto lawyer was recently fined $10,000 by the Law Society of Upper Canada for selling course work to a York University MBA student for “thousands of dollars.”

Shane Smith was reprimanded by a law society hearing panel last month for conduct unbecoming a student licensee. He was given one year to pay the fine and an additional $1,000 in costs.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Smith acted contrary to parts of the Law Society Act when, while he was an articling student, he “provided and sold papers, which he and another student member had researched and written, to M, who was then a student in the MBA program at York University’s graduate school of business, with the knowledge that the papers would be submitted to the graduate school of business as M’s work.”

The student who received the course work is not named in the statement of facts.

Smith, 31, who currently works for IBM Canada Ltd., was called to the bar in July 2004.

But while the LSUC decision pertains to Smith’s activities while he was articling and M was an MBA student, documents obtained by Law Times show the scandal reached back to their law school days.

The law society hearing-panel decision follows a July 2005 York University discipline committee finding that Smith committed academic dishonesty while a student at Osgoode and a student member of the law society.

Prior to that, in January 2005, Osgoode dean Patrick Monahan told LSUC that the school would be having an academic conduct hearing involving Smith and a third student (who also allegedly wrote one paper for M). Both have since graduated from Osgoode and are licensed by the law society.

The law society subsequently also began an investigation into Smith’s conduct later that month. Meanwhile, in March 2005, an Osgoode tribunal found him guilty of academic dishonesty.

Smith’s punishment from that tribunal was the notation of an academic offence on his transcript for five years.

According to the statement of facts, M was an Osgoode student who struggled academically and had failed a number of classes. Smith tutored M in constitutional law - a course M had previously failed - in the summer of 2001. M passed supplementary exams in that course.

Smith then, during M’s second and third years of law school, wrote four course papers for M and was compensated with payment of “thousands of dollars,” says the statement of facts, adding that M wouldn’t have passed the courses without the papers.

Smith also paid the third Osgoode student $1,500 to produce a paper for M. But M didn’t know that Smith subcontracted the third student to write the paper, which received a passing grade.

Meanwhile, all three of the individuals involved graduated from Osgoode in 2003 with LLBs.

M went on to an MBA program at York and continued to pay Smith to write papers for him in 2003 and 2004, says the statement of facts.

Then, in the summer of 2004, Smith and M “engaged in the detailed negotiation of a formal contractual arrangement, which was to have resulted in the lawyer producing for M the balance of his MBA course work,” according to the statement of facts. “The contract required M to pay [Smith] approximately $17,500 for the services that were to be performed during the 2004-2005 academic years.”

However, the conduct was reported to Osgoode staff before the contract could be acted upon. “Accordingly, no work was provided and no payments were made pursuant to this arrangement,” says the statement.

Smith was an articling student at the Vaughn firm Bratty & Partners LLP from Sept. 3, 2003 to July 3, 2004, it adds.

“Thus, he prepared and sold academic papers while he was a law student and a student member [now student licensee] of the society,” the statement of facts reads.

Smith, who was represented by Toronto lawyer Joseph Markson, didn’t respond to Law Times’ requests for comment.

Law society spokesman Roy Thomas says LSUC has not received a notice of application regarding the third student’s conduct.

An Osgoode spokesperson said officials there are unable to comment on disciplinary proceedings due to legal restrictions and the school’s academic rules.

Law Times was unable to discover M’s fate.

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