Applying a contextual and purposive interpretation to the Law Society of Ontario By-Laws, the Court held that the Hearing Division of the Law Society of Ontario has jurisdiction to refuse an application for a licence after that licence has already been issued where the applicant made a false or misleading representation on or in connection with the application.
Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – Law Societies – Judicial review – Jurisdiction – Legislative compliance – Procedural requirements and fairness – Standard of review – Reasonableness – Barristers, solicitors, notaries and paralegals – Licence to practice – Reporting requirements
Amendola v. Law Society of Ontario,  O.J. No. 3299,  O.J. No. 3299, 2023 ONSC 4123, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, July 19, 2023, E.M. Stewart, R.A. Lococo and S. O’Brien JJ.
On judicial review, the applicant paralegal challenged the jurisdiction of the Law Society Hearing Division to reconsider and refuse the applicant’s licensing application several years after the Law Society had already granted the licence.
In 2007, while the applicant was a licenced real estate agent, he was sanctioned by the Real Estate Counsel of Ontario for professional misconduct and was ordered to pay an administrative financial penalty.
In 2009, the Law Society granted the applicant’s application for a paralegal licence and the applicant commenced practice. However, the applicant failed to disclose on his application the prior professional disciplinary proceedings and the administrative penalty. The applicant had answered “no” to questions on the license application asking whether the applicant had ever been disciplined as a member of any professional organization, and whether the applicant had ever been sanctioned or had a penalty imposed on him by an administrative tribunal or regulatory body.
In 2018, the Law Society learned of the misrepresentation. The Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. L.8, s. 27(4) provides that an application for a licence may be refused only after a hearing by the Hearing Division, on referral of the matter by the Law Society. The Law Society referred the matter for a licencing hearing before the Hearing Division.
A panel of the Hearing Division refused to grant the applicant a licence. The Law Society By-Laws, By-Law 4(2) provides that an applicant who makes any false or misleading representation or declaration on or in connection with an application “is deemed thereafter not to meet, and not to have met, the requirements” for the licence.
The majority of the Appeal Division upheld the Hearing Division’s refusal.
On judicial review, the applicant’s primary argument was that the Hearing Division did not have jurisdiction to reconsider and refuse his license application after the Law Society had already granted the licence and the applicant had already practiced as a licensed paralegal for a number of years.
The Court dismissed the application for judicial review, holding that it was reasonable for the majority of the Appeal Division to find that the Hearing Division has jurisdiction to refuse the applicant’s licence after the licence was already issued.
The Court applied the principles of statutory interpretation to By-Law 4(2). Applying a contextual and purposive interpretation, the Court held that By-Law 4 continued to have effect after a licence was issued; it deemed an applicant “thereafter not to meet, and not to have met” the requirements for the licence. Further, the Court held that restricting the Hearing Division’s jurisdiction to address false statements in a licence application only if discovered before the licence was granted would be inconsistent with the Law Society’s function in protecting the public, maintaining high ethical standards, and maintaining public confidence in the legal professions.
This case was digested by Emilie LeDuc, and first published in the LexisNexis® Harper Grey Administrative Law Netletter and the Harper Grey Administrative Law Newsletter. If you would like to discuss this case further, please contact Emilie LeDuc at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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