The appeal by a licensed practical nurse (“Coffey”) from a decision of a panel of the discipline committee of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba (the “College”) finding him guilty of professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a licensed practical nurse was dismissed where the court found that the conduct in question involved solicitation that contained false, inaccurate and misleading information which was circulated outside of the membership

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Licensed Practical Nurses – Nurses – Disciplinary proceedings – Professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming – Penalties and suspensions – Appeals – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter – Evidence

Coffey v. College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba, [2008] M.J. No. 116, Manitoba Court of Appeal, April 1, 2008, M. A. Monnin, M. H. Freedman and A. D. MacInnes

Coffey was engaged in a dispute with the College involving fees charged to members. Coffey sued the College in a Small Claims Action and lost. He appealed to the Court of Queens Bench and lost. Coffey then attempted to solicit support from other members for the convening of a special meeting of the College to deal with fees and other matters. Aspects of that solicitation led the College to direct an investigation into Coffey’s conduct and, ultimately, to lay charges. The College identified a number of problems with the solicitation including that it contained false, inaccurate and misleading information in respect of staff salaries and that it was circulated outside the licensed practical nurse membership. The panel of the discipline committee of the College found that these factors brought the profession into disrepute and constituted unprofessional conduct. The Panel imposed a reprimand and costs. Coffey appealed the decision of the Panel.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal found that the decision of the Panel fell clearly within the “range of possible, acceptable outcomes which were defensible in respect of the facts and law”. The degree of deference to the Panel’s decision was fairly high and, consequently, the standard of review was reasonableness. The Court noted that Coffey had the burden of persuading the Court that there was “no line of analysis within the . . . Reasons that could reasonably lead the tribunal from the evidence before it to the conclusion at which it arrived”. The Court found that the Reasons of the Panel demonstrated that it had considered all the evidence. Coffey had known that the union mailing list which he used in his solicitation included non-licensed practical nurses. There was also evidence that the solicitation contained false information relating to staff salaries. The Court found that this false information impugned the integrity of the College’s officers and staff. In the result, Coffey’s appeal was dismissed.

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