Administrative law – Barristers and solicitors – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties – Suspension – Stay of suspension
Pierce v. Law Society of British Columbia,  B.C.J. No. 2008, British Columbia Court of Appeal, September 5, 2002, Donald J.A.
On September 16, 2002, the Law Society issued a citation alleging professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a member of the profession in connection with Mr. Pierce’s behaviour surrounding his estranged wife’s personal injury action. On April 16, 1999, a hearing panel of the Law Society found against Mr. Pierce and on January 20, 2000, the penalty of a suspension for three months was imposed. Mr. Pierce petitioned for judicial review which succeeded and the verdicts and penalty were set aside. On April 23, 2002, the Court of Appeal reversed the Supreme Court’s decision and restored the orders of the Law Society. On June 12, 2002, the benchers of the Law Society held a review of the penalty and decided to increase the penalty to a suspension of nine months in total. It was decided that the suspension would commence June 3, 2002. Mr. Pierce applied for an order staying the penalty pending an Application for Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Court of Appeal noted that if the stay of the suspension were not granted, the suspension would take effect at the beginning of September and run for an additional six months. A decision from the Supreme Court on the pending application was unlikely within the six months and, consequently, Mr. Pierce would suffer irreparable harm if he was ultimately successful in this appeal. The court further noted that the purpose of the suspension was punishment, not protection of the public. In the result, the court concluded that Mr. Pierce had satisfied the requirements for a stay of suspension in that he raised a serious question to be argued, would suffer irreparable harm if the stay was not ordered and the balance of convenience was in his favour. However, the court did not accept that a publication of the additional penalty would create irreparable harm and refused to order a stay with respect to that publication. The court also refused to order a stay with respect to the issue of costs.
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