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Legal Profession - Regulation of profession - Disciplinary procedure - What constitutes misconduct - Punishments - Disbarment

Thursday, January 26, 2017 @ 7:00 PM  

Appeal by Cherrett from the respondent’s decision finding him guilty of misappropriating $20,000 from his trust account and disbarring him. The appellant solicitor argued that the finding of misappropriation was unreasonable, given his ill health and the effects on his state of mind. He also argued that the panel ignored some of his evidence that was relevant to whether his actions were intentional or careless in nature. The appellant had significant health issues for a number of years. After meeting with the Law Society in 2009 about the continuation of his practice, he transferred $20,000 from his trust account to a bank account in the name of a numbered company for which he was the sole director and signing authority. He then transferred this money to his personal account.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The panel acknowledged the appellant’s many medical problems in its reasons. It understood, but did not accept, his argument that he misappropriated the money in a cognitive fog. The panel engaged the appellant during the hearing to ensure that the panel understood his evidence and submissions. The panel did not accept the appellant’s evidence that he was confused and careless. Given that, the finding of misappropriation was inevitable. In determining the appropriate sanction, the panel addressed the appellant’s ill health and the effect on him, including psychologically and emotionally. Given the panel’s findings, which were unassailable, the disposition of disbarment was well within the range of possible outcomes.