Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Brief look at LSUC disciplinary matters involving Black and VM lawyers including Real Estate Fraud and Misappropriation

I saw this AD at the Train Station tonight and could not help but feel sad about the lawyers that actually makes such a claim illusory. See, for example: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2011 ONLSHP 69 (CanLII);  Law Society of Upper Canada v. Ernest Guiste, 2011 ONLSHP 24 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Ernest Guiste, 2011 ONLSHP 74 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Selwyn Milan McSween, 2010 ONLSHP 111 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Charles Ato Amissah-Ocran, 2011 ONLSHP 9 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham (a.k.a Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham-McBean), 2011 ONLSHP 26 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham (a.k.a Karen Rosalee Caroline Cunningham-McBean), 2010 ONLSHP 97 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Meera Bharadwaj, 2011 ONLSHP 4 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 25 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 13 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Dunstan Dan Senjule, 2010 ONLSHP 18 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Winston Gauntlett Mattis, 2009 ONLSHP 5 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2008 ONLSHP 70 (CanLII); Law Society of Upper Canada v. Pretam Kaur Purewal, 2008 ONLSHP 132 (CanLII)



Suspensions and Revocation – a cause for concern

All of the cases above involved lawyers who are Black or visible minority. The Ornstein Report prepared for the LSUC reports that the Black community only made up 1.9% of all lawyers in Ontario in 2006, representing an increase of only 0.01% from 2001. In Ontario "there is wide variation between visible minority groups. There is one Black lawyer for every 750 members of the Black community, one for every 627 South Asians and one for every 755 members of the Chinese community. Incontrast, there is just one Filipino lawyer for every 2,730 members of that community, one ...for every 1,649 Latin Americans and one for every 994 Southeast Asians."

I recently spoke on the disproportionate number of Black lawyers subject to regulatory proceedings, investigations and disciplinary proceedings at the Law Society of Upper Canada. I was asked whether or not Black lawyers are over policed by the society.[1] I tend to think not because of what I observe personally and read from the disciplinary reports. The Law Society, with the exception of spot audits, member annual report and certain obligations it places on lawyers, is reactive. It responds to complaints not necessarily initiates it.

Section 49.3 of the Law Society Act enables the Law Society to conduct an investigation into a Licensee's conduct or capacity if the Society receives information suggesting that the Licensee may have engaged in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming of a lawyer.

Too many Black and conscious lawyers from the diaspora and other racial minority communities are getting into trouble with the Law Society of Upper Canada for various illegal, wrong or unethical conduct including failing to respond to law society complaints,[2] failing to maintain books and records in compliance with By-law 18,[3] overbilling,[4] be duped by an unscrupulous client, suspended and/or disbarred for frauds[5] and/or misleading clients.[6]

Money for work to be done must be put in trust.  All kinds of contingencies can arise, including your client switching lawyers.  The money is not yours until the work has been done and the client billed.[7]

It is clear that a cloud of distrust exists when and where there are or allegations of misallocation of funds, misappropriation of funds, or inappropriately withdrawing monies from a client’s trust account.

If allegations of improprieties or unlawful or illegal conduct on the part of a lawyer, regardless of whether that lawyer is Black or not, come to the attention of the Law Society, it have a responsibility to look into the allegations and do all it can to safeguard or restore the integrity and credibility of the profession.

The Law Society has a duty to act and with expediency in those instances where clients and others are at risk of fraudulent behavior by lawyers.

* (c) 2010 - Selwyn A. Pieters, B.A., LL.B., Barrister, Solicitor & Notary Public - is a sole practitioner in the City of Toronto.
[1] One lawyer accused the LSUC of racially profiling him: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, 2008 ONLSHP 30. He was, however, recently found guilty before a panel composed of the only Black Bencher (at the material time), Joanne St. Lewis: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, 2010 ONLSHP 13 (CanLII) Paul Legall, Aziga's lawyer facing bar society discipline, Hamilton Spectator, January 23, 2009. The Spectator reported that “As part of its investigation, the law society appointed a forensic accountant to the case. Hamalengwa, a sole practitioner, refused to meet with him or open the books unless the accountant made a fuller disclosure about the nature of the investigation. He has since co-operated with investigators and the law society hasn't yet decided whether he'll be charged in relation to the women's complaints.”
[4] Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire, 2008 ONLSHP 70 (2 months suspension for overbilling in addition to various licence restrictions). I was sharing space with him on a sublease, and the landlord took possession of the premises presumably because he was not paying the rent for the leased premises. I not only lost my office space but also came off a murder trial on which I was co-counsel with this lawyer: On June 01, 2010, another Notice of Application was issued against Bagambiire alleging seven count of professional misconduct. A hearing is scheduled to be held from December 13 - 17, 2010: see, Law Society of Upper Canada v. Davies Bagambiire. My getting off the case was the subject of judicial and news comments: See, R. v. Aziga, 2008 CanLII 39612 (ON S.C.); R. v. Aziga, 2008 CanLII 53125 (ON S.C.) and newspaper articles: Defendant seeks another delay, Hamilton Spectator, Oct 1, 2008; Barbara Brown, Jail's not nice, judge agrees, Hamilton Spectator, August 7, 2008; 8th lawyer off HIV murder case, Toronto Sun, August 7, 2008. There certainly is a lesson to be learnt here and sometimes it is  not about race, it is about the integrity of the person.
[5]Law Society of Upper Canada v. Glen Hugh Peter Abrahams, 2008 ONLSHP 81 (CanLII) – Black Jamaica lawyer who was highly regarded and Malcolm v. Abrahams, 2010 ONSC 4091 (CanLII) Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2004 ONLSHP 25 (CanLII), 2004 ONLSHP 0025, 2009 ONLSHP 16 (He was a pillar in the Guyanese and West Indian Communities in Toronto). Mr. Baksh appealed. The decision of the Appeal Panel in the matter of: Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kadir Baksh, 2006 ONLSAP 6 (CanLII), 2006 ONLSAP 6 provides as follows: “[132] A solicitor's participation in multiple mortgage frauds can only be regarded as serious.  That seriousness is compounded when the facts reveal that the solicitor was not merely an unknowing dupe.  Protection of the public compelled the Hearing Panel to consider disbarment as a potential disposition.  The appellant's attitude towards his own misconduct reinforced the view that protection of the public could only have been served by terminating his ability to practise law.” See also, Law Society of Upper Canada v. Winston Gauntlett Mattis, 2009 ONLSHP 5 (CanLII)
[6] Law Society of Upper Canada v. Jonathan Wade Strug, 2008 ONLSHP 88 (disbarred for phantom cases). I represented on of the victims in this case: Robert Todd, Law Times – Lawyer strung clients along with phantom cases. 25 Oct., 2007
[7] Gary Lloyd Gottlieb, Bencher's Diary: A day of discipline, Law Times, February 13, 2009.

4 comments:

Robert said...

Do you have any cases where Lawyers won against the LSUC complaint for alleged mortgage fraud?

pretam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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Victim said...

I am a victim of Charles A. Ocran. This conundrum has left me without a home and unemployed. I used him to close the deal on the sale of my property and instead of paying out my mortgage and providing my equity funds, he left me victimized : (. Hanging high and dry. The buyers title insurance ended up paying out my mortgage and then came after me and Ocran (jointly and severely) for the money they paid out to clear the mortgage from the property. Now there is a judgement against me!!! The sale proceeds never touched my hands, yet i'm left victimized and exploited in this BS system Canada is so lucky to have. Ocran's negligence has destroyed my life. What the hell are some of these lawyers thinking. Lets get real !!!