Day: August 16, 2017

This Week in Legal Ethics – New Conduct Review Ruling

Posted on Updated on

By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

As I mentioned in a previous post, the fact situation and outcome of Conduct Reviews are published anonymously on the Law Society website in our Conduct Review Database. A Conduct Review is a face to face meeting with a member who is the subject of a complaint that raises conduct issues ‘close to the line’ of conduct unbecoming. The meeting is meant to assist the member identify and accept responsibility for the conduct that caused concern, to learn from the complaint and Conduct Review, and to change their conduct to proactively prevent similar situations in the future. The Conduct Reviews are published to provide guidance to the profession. Below is a recent Conduct Review:

Category:   Misleading/Failure to Respond
Practice Area:   Family Law
Code: 4.1-2; 5.1-2(e); 7.1-1
E-cite:   2017 SKLSCR  1     
Date:   July 31, 2017

Summary:      

Member A represented Client A in a family law litigation matter. Member B represented Client B. A pretrial conference was scheduled. Prior to the Pre-trial, Member B emailed Member A with a letter of opinion from a real estate agent regarding the value of property that was in contention in the litigation. Member A replied and indicated that Member A was contemplating have Appraiser X conduct an appraisal of the property. Subsequently, an arrangement was made to have Appraiser X attend at the property.

Appraiser X attended and prepared an appraisal. It was a quick turnaround at the parties’ request. Appraiser X emailed Member A the appraisal nine days before the pretrial conference and likely mailed a hard copy the same day, but was unable to confirm the mailing.

Member A denied receiving the hard copy until after the pretrial conference and denied seeing the emailed copy as well until after the pretrial conference. He states that the email went to his “junk email” box and was not read until after he received the hard copy in the mail.

The day before the pretrial conference, Member B emailed Member A asking about the appraisal. No reply was provided. At the pretrial conference, Member A is alleged to have told the presiding Pretrial Judge and Member B that he did not have the appraisal. Member A indicates that he does not recall saying this.

The parties entered into a settlement at the pretrial conference that was later challenged due to the subsequent discovery of the appraised value of the property.

The Conduct Investigation Committee determined that the fact that an appraisal was commissioned and rushed for the pretrial conferences raised serious doubt as to the knowledge of Member A of the appraisal or at least as to his diligence in preparing for the pretrial conference. The Conduct Investigation Committee believed that Member A could have done more to determine the status of the appraisal report before the pretrial conference and this is of concern.

Further, the Conduct Investigation Committee felt Member A was less than compliant with the Committee in responding to requests to discuss the matter further with Member A.

Accordingly, the Conduct Investigation Committee recommended a “Conduct Review” to discuss Member A’s conduct on the file and Member A’s dealings with the Committee.

The Conduct Review Committee met with the Member and reviewed the report of the CIC. They spoke candidly about its concerns with the Member’s role in the fact situation and the lack of diligence and attention paid to the Conduct Investigation Committee. Member acknowledged these concerns and apologized for them.

The Conduct Review Committee specifically outlined the need for future diligence in attending file matters and in all dealings with the Law Society. A busy practice or life is no excuse for failing to immediately and fully cooperate with the Law Society. Member A made a commitment to meet his duty in the future.