Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Law Societies – Barristers and solicitors – Professional misconduct – Judicial review – Standard of review – Reasonableness simpliciter – Evidence
Hesje v. Law Society of Saskatchewan,  S.J. No. 2, 2015 SKCA 2, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, January 8, 2015, R.K. Ottenbreit, N.W. Caldwell and M.J. Herauf JJ.A.,
A lawyer was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a lawyer by the Law Society after he failed to serve his client in a conscientious, diligent and efficient manner by failing to keep him reasonably informed of his litigation. In 2006, the client had been sued in defamation and the lawyer agreed to help him on a pro bono basis, largely due to political connections between the client and the lawyer’s firm. After an unsuccessful mediation in 2007, the action laid dormant until four years later when the plaintiff brought a motion for summary judgment. The lawyer asked his colleague at the firm to handle the motion, but the colleague could not reach the client as all phone numbers on file had been disconnected. They did not try to contact the client by any other methods, such as mail or process server. They opposed the motion on the client’s behalf, but the plaintiff was successful and got his order in January 2012. The lawyer and his colleague tried contacting the client again after the order was obtained but to no avail. The client learned of the summary judgment decision through a newspaper reporter and subsequently filed a complaint to the Law Society about the lawyer.
The Law Society charged the lawyer with conduct unbecoming a lawyer and he applied to the Law Society Hearing Committee for further and better particulars. The Hearing Committee did not provide further and better particulars and found him guilty, concluding that the steps taken to attempt to contact the client fell short of reasonable in the circumstances. The lawyer appealed the Committee’s findings to the Court of Appeal on the basis that its decision was unreasonable in a number of ways. The court held that the Committee’s decision not to provide further particulars was reasonable given that the lawyer was well aware of the facts and the case against him. The court concluded that none of the lawyer’s other grounds of appeal had merit and his appeal was dismissed.
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