Oct 19, 2020

In the high profile case of Howe v Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, 2019 NSCA 81, http://canlii.ca/t/j3085 a lawyer was found at discipline to have “been dishonest with the Court, made misrepresentations to the Court, demonstrated a significant lack of candour, was deliberately dishonest, failed to properly investigate client files, and failed to recognize conflicts of interest”. He was disbarred. On appeal the practitioner argued that the investigation and prosecution was tainted by racial discrimination and that he had been subject to differential treatment throughout his dealing with the regulator. The Court found that the hearing panel had carefully reviewed and considered the evidence it received over the course of 66 days. There was no legal error in the panel’s conclusion that the regulator was acting in response to legitimate concerns without discrimination.

The Court also found that the allegation of appearance of bias by one of the panel members on the basis of a pecuniary advantage in eliminating a competitor was, in the circumstances, without merit. The Court agreed with the panel that:

… “the impact of reducing the pool of criminal lawyers by one would have such a minimal impact on the number of clients for [the panel member] as to be insignificant. This cannot form the basis of a reasonable apprehension of bias by a reasonable person. [It] cannot form the basis to rebut the presumption of impartiality.”