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Suspended lawyer runs for bencher

Platform pushes tribunal reform
|Written By Anita Balakrishnan
Suspended lawyer runs for bencher
Mississauga sole practitioner David Grant Isaac is permitted to run in the Law Society of Ontario’s bencher election under the law society’s rules.

A Lawyer whose licence has been suspended after representing his wife in Small Claims Court will be allowed to run in the upcoming bencher election.

Mississauga sole practitioner David Grant Isaac is permitted to run under the law society’s rules, despite having his licence temporarily suspended after he submitted his candidacy, said Susan Tonkin, the LSO’s communications advisor, in an email statement. 

A licensee’s licence can’t be suspended at the time of signing the nomination form for bencher candidate, according to the governing bylaw, but Tonkin said Isaac signed his nomination form prior to his suspension and submitted it by the close of nominations.

Isaac faces a three-month suspension beginning Jan. 25, 2019, said Tonkin.

Isaac told Law Times he is appealing the Law Society Tribunal decision and hopes for the suspension to be lifted ahead of the April 30 bencher election.

Isaac has a disciplinary history dating back to 2009 and was recently ordered to pay $30,000 in costs to the law society.

However, the Law Society Tribunal said in 2013 and 2018 decisions that his alleged misconduct has been “at the low end of the scale of seriousness.”

Isaac’s issues include representing his wife in Small Claims Court during a period where he was previously suspended, failing to co-operate with three law society investigations in terms of scheduling and “editorializ[ing] about the proceedings” and allegedly threatening to file a complaint about another lawyer with the law society.

“The Lawyer also argued that his decision, to neither provide the information and documents requested nor to attend at an interview as requested, was justified, because the Society did not co-operate fully with his own requests for information.

His requests were presented as conditions to his further co-operation with the Society, after his initial responses to each complaint,” said a tribunal decision from September 2018.

After his experiences, Isaac says, he is dedicating his platform to reform at the tribunal, as he has seen the relationship between sole practitioners and the law society strained by the tribunal.

The 2017 annual report of the LSO said that 79 per cent of complaints against lawyers were about sole practitioners or licensees in firms with five or fewer licensees.

For paralegals, that figure is 98 per cent.

Meanwhile, says Isaac, other lawyers have made headlines for criminal records, misuse of trust money or numerous LawPro claims, creating a perception of unfairness.

“The people they are going after are not the people they should be going after,” says Isaac. “You can’t bring what I bring to the table unless you’ve lived it.”

Isaac says the Law Society Tribunal needs more independence from the law society. For example, he says, he proposes striking a section of Ontario’s Law Society Act that says, “A person appointed as chair of the Tribunal holds office at the pleasure of Convocation.”

He adds that he feels non-bencher licensees should have more involvement with authorizing Law Society Tribunal proceedings and on approving the law society’s stance on major litigation such as last year’s Supreme Court cases Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada and Groia v. Law Society of Upper Canada.

Isaac also says he would like to see a more robust duty counsel program at the tribunal.

“Self-regulation is not a right, it’s a privilege,” says Isaac.

“This organization has to be changed. I’m not going to just walk off into the sunset and leave this organization the way it is. Someone has to do something about it. Most lawyers are totally intimidated by the law society. . . . I’m not going to just shirk it off and not get involved. I’m worried about the people coming behind me; that this organization is the way that it is, it can’t continue.”

It is unusual for a licensee with a disciplinary record to sit on a profession’s governing board, says Robin McKechney, a partner at Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc in Toronto, who is not running for bencher or involved in Isaac’s case.

“[M]any other regulators have a bylaw that restricts anyone with a discipline history from running for their council or, in the law society’s case, for bencher,” says McKechney. 

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