A paralegal was unsuccessful in his motion for stay of suspension of a licence to practice

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Law Societies – Paralegals – Licence to practice – Accreditation – Misrepresentation – Stay of suspension – Public interest – Judicial review – Rules and by-laws – Interpretation

Vincent v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2011] O.J. No. 397, 2011 ONSC 476, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, January 20, 2011, T.P. Herman J.

Mr. Vincent applied for a paralegal license in October 2007. The Law Society of Upper Canada found that Mr. Vincent did not meet the good character requirement and thus found that he did not qualify for a license. The Law Society Hearing Panel and the Law Society Hearing Appeal Panel agreed. Mr. Vincent made a motion to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a stay of the Appeal Panel’s decision pending disposition of his appeal but the Court dismissed the motion on the basis that the balance of convenience did not favour the relief sought.

Mr. Vincent did not dispute that he made misrepresentations to the Law Society concerning his prior criminal record; however, he took issue with the Appeal Panel’s interpretation of s. 8(2) of the Law Society’s By-Law 4. Mr. Vincent argued that the Appeal Panel ought to have looked beyond the fact of the misrepresentations to the reasons why he was not fully forthcoming.

In order to obtain a stay, Mr. Vincent was obliged to demonstrate:

(1) there is a serious question to be tried;

(2) he will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted; and

(3) the balance of convenience favours granting the stay.

Regarding the first prong of the stay test, the Appeal Panel acknowledged that there were two lines of cases dealing with the interpretation of s. 8(2). One interpretation held that s. 8(2) refers to deliberately false or misleading representations but not to misrepresentations made in good faith. A different interpretation is that there is no good faith exception. Mr. Vincent argued that both of the interpretations were incorrect. Since the threshold to satisfy the first part of the test is low, the Court held that Mr. Vincent satisfied his onus that there was a sufficient serious issue to be tried.

Regarding the second prong, given Mr. Vincent’s age (65 years) and the nature of his business, the Court accepted that it would be extremely difficult for Mr. Vincent to rebuild his practice after a lengthy period of time out of the business. Accordingly, the Court found that Mr. Vincent established on the balance of probabilities that he would suffer irreparable harm if a stay was not granted.

Despite the foregoing, the Court found that the balance of convenience did not favor the relief sought because: (1) Mr. Vincent exhibited a disregard for the decision of the Appeal Panel by continuing to provide legal services contrary to the decision; and (2) an affidavit submitted in support of his motion was misleading. On balance, the Court found that a stay would have an adverse impact on public confidence in the system for licensing and regulating of paralegals. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Mr. Vincent’s motion.

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