The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Law Society of British Columbia to disbar a Member for the improper withdrawal of client funds from Trust Accounts. The Court held that disbarment is a remedy available to the Law Society for the deliberate misappropriation of trust fund monies except in highly unusual circumstances.

27. November 2007 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Law Societies – Barristers and solicitors – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties – Disbarment – Public interest – Judicial review – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness

McGuire v. Law Society of British Columbia, [2007] B.C.J. No. 2161, British Columbia Court of Appeal, September 7, 2007, M.A. Rowles, M.V. Newbury and R.E. Levine JJ.A.

The Discipline Panel of the Law Society of British Columbia (the “Panel”) disbarred the Appellant for repeated deliberate misappropriation of his clients’ trust fund monies.

The Appellant appealed the decision on the basis that the Panel erred in imposing the most serious penalty available to it in circumstances which, he contended, the public would be “well protected by lesser sanction”. The Court of Appeal held that it could not interfere with the Panel’s conclusions unless the decision was unreasonable (not supported by a tenable explanation). The Panel is bound to consider the protection of the public and the Court of Appeal found that it was not unreasonable for the Panel to have given high importance to that objective. The Court of Appeal found the Law Society’s position that “disbarment is the remedy for deliberate misappropriation of trust funds except in highly unusual circumstances” was indeed reasonable. The Appellant’s unexpected marital problems and unexpected veterinarian bills were not deemed sufficient to justify the suspension of a lawyer’s ethical or professional duties.

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