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REGULATION OF PROFESSION - Disciplinary procedure - Punishments

Monday, July 15, 2019 @ 9:47 AM  

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Appeal by a solicitor, Peet, from a Law Society disciplinary penalty decision. The appellant was admitted to the bar in 1981. He had a lengthy disciplinary history involving 16 findings of misconduct in the prior 20 years. The current proceedings arose from the appellant's failure to file reporting forms and respond to Law Society auditor’s inquiries. The auditor ultimately referred the matter to the Complaints Counsel. The appellant pled guilty to one count of conduct unbecoming a lawyer. In submissions regarding sanction, the appellant acknowledged his error, but maintained he delayed his response due to the requirements of an ongoing litigation file. The appellant was suspended for six months, fined $40,000, and assessed costs of $1,865. The Committee cited the appellant's lengthy disciplinary history and consistent downplaying of the seriousness of his conduct. The solicitor appealed on the basis the penalty was excessive and resulted from a failure to adhere to the principle of progressive discipline, and/or a failure to consider mitigating factors.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The appellant did not establish that the Committee failed to consider the mitigating factor of his guilty plea. Instead, the decision reflected the view that the guilty plea could not serve to materially mitigate the gravity of the appellant's ongoing and offending conduct. The decision not to accord the plea weight, or to regard the appellant's non-compliance as minor, was not unreasonable. No error arose from the Committee's application of the principle of progressive discipline. The Committee was alive to the fact that the appellant's most recent prior penalty was imposed after the conduct that gave rise to the current charge and was entitled to consider that prior penalty in the context of formulating the appropriate sanction. The penalty imposed was not unreasonable and was supported by clear reasons. By any standard, the appellant's continuing flaunting of the Law Society's authority was excessive and merited a significant penalty. No sustainable ground of appeal arose from the composition of the Committee.

Law Society of Saskatchewan v. Peet, [2019] S.J. No. 203, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, R.K. Ottenbreit, P.A. Whitmore and R. Leurer JJ.A., June 4, 2019. Digest No. TLD-July152019003