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REGULATION OF PROFESSION - Disciplinary procedure - What constitutes misconduct - Reprimand

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 @ 8:39 AM  

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Appeal by Alghoul, a lawyer, from a finding of professional misconduct and the reprimand imposed. Alghoul represented a claimant under the Residential Schools Independent Assessment Process. An adjudicator received no response to four email messages asking Alghoul for information about his time records. She ultimately obtained the records from another member of his firm, and determined that Alghoul may have misled her. She complained to the Law Society, which informed Alghoul in writing of the complaint and requested his written response. He wrote back to state that he was out of the country when the adjudicator’s messages were sent, that he did not knowingly mislead the adjudicator, and that the messages came at a stressful time, shortly after the death of a member of his firm. He acknowledged that his office made a mistake and that he owed the adjudicator an apology. The Law Society conducted an investigation and issued a citation, alleging that Alghoul had engaged in professional misconduct by failing to respond to the adjudicator’s messages. Alghoul retained counsel, who wrote to the Law Society that the adjudicator’s emails were among hundreds sent to Alghoul while he was away. At the discipline hearing, Alghoul told the Law Society that he had not received the emails because they were sent to an old email address. The Discipline Committee relied on Alghoul’s initial letter and his counsel’s email to find that he had received the messages. At the disposition hearing, the Committee ruled that an appearance before the Panel for a talking to was not an appropriate disposition and issued a reprimand, also ordering Alghoul to bear the costs of the proceedings.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. It was open to the panel to find that Alghoul received the adjudicator’s messages, on his own evidence. The Panel was entitled to reject his explanation at the hearing that they were sent to a junk email address. A finding of professional misconduct was available on the evidence that was accepted, and the reasons for that finding were adequate. The reprimand was at the low end of the spectrum of penalties available, and was a reasonable choice given Alghoul’s lack of a previous discipline record, the serious consequences it brought, and the need to remind Alghoul and the profession generally of the Law Society’s expectations regarding responding to communications from an adjudicator. The costs of $28,000, while high, were not unreasonable.

Law Society of Manitoba v. Alghoul, [2018] M.J. No. 52, [2018] M.J. No. 52, J. leMaistre, M.A. Monnin and H.C. Beard JJ.A., March 8, 2018. Digest No. TLD-March262018009