The appeal by a notary public (“Bailey”) of the penalty imposed by the Board of Directors of the Society of Notaries was dismissed. The court held that the decision to impose a fine and a suspension on a third complaint arising from a breach of an undertaking was not unreasonable.

Administrative law – Notaries – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties – Suspensions – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Society of Notaries – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

Bailey v. Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia, [2004] B.C.J. No. 626, British Columbia Supreme Court, February 27, 2004, Brown J.

On December 27, 2002, the Society issued a notice of inquiry to Bailey indicating that inquiry would be directed to allegations including failure to ensure a discharge of a mortgage, acting for parties whose interests were at odds, and failing to honour an undertaking to pay trust funds to the Royal Bank. At the inquiry before the Discipline Committee, Bailey and the Society filed an agreed statement of facts. Findings were made against Bailey by the Panel with respect to the allegations. On May 9, 2002, Bailey appeared before the Board of Directors of the Society to determine appropriate penalty. Bailey accepted the findings of the Panel but argued that a fine and remedial study would be the appropriate penalty to impose. The Board was aware that this was Bailey’s third appearance before the Discipline Committee for breach of an undertaking. For the first, Bailey received a letter of reprimand; for the second, she was penalized a fine of $2,500. In this instance, the Board imposed a penalty including two weeks suspension, a fine of $4,000 and remedial study. Bailey appealed this decision.

The court reviewed various decisions with respect to standard of review and concluded that reasonableness simpliciter was the appropriate standard in this instance. The court voiced the issue as:

taken as a whole are the reasons of the Board, one, tenable; two, grounded in evidence; and, three, supporting both a fine and suspension.

In this case, the court agreed that the findings by the Discipline Committee with respect to Bailey’s failure to discharge a mortgage and her breach of an undertaking to pay trust funds were capable of demonstrating to the Board the extent of Bailey’s lack of understanding of and the appropriate seriousness of the undertaking. Taken as a whole, the court found that the reasons of the Board were tenable and that it was not unreasonable for the Board to impose a fine and a suspension on a third complaint arising from the breach of an undertaking.

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