The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Discipline Committee of the Law Society of New Brunswick (the “Committee”) where it found the Appellant guilty of professional misconduct by acting, while in a conflict of interest, as counsel for a married couple who were separating

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Law Societies – Barristers and solicitors – Conflict of interest – Professional misconduct – Disciplinary proceedings – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter

O’Toole v. Law Society of New Brunswick, [2007] N.B.J. No. 66, New Brunswick Court of Appeal, March 15, 2007, J.Z. Daigle, A. Deschênes and J.T. Robertson JJ.A.

The Appellant appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal and challenged the Committee’s conclusion that the Appellant was guilty of professional misconduct contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct of the Canadian Bar Association regarding the disclosure of conflicting interests.

The Court held that despite the absence of a privative clause and the broad right of appeal in the case, the expertise of the Discipline Committee militated in favour of great deference from a review in court. The Court of Appeal found that the standard of review of the Committee’s decision was reasonableness simpliciter, and found that the decision was supported by a tenable explanation and satisfied the reasonableness standard.

The Court of Appeal found that the Committee’s findings of fact were amply supported by the evidence and, therefore, reasonable. In the result, the Court of Appeal declined to interfere with the decision of the Committee.

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