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Embattled former Windsor law student allowed to practise

|Written By Heather Gardiner

A University of Windsor law graduate who was previously declared a vexatious litigant has been granted a licence to practise law by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Dating back to April 2005, Anica Visic had filed multiple human rights complaints against the University of Windsor, two of her former articling principals, and the law society.

Visic made her first complaint against the University of Windsor after she failed her first year of law school in 2000 due to a medical condition. She suffered from myofascial pain syndrome, which causes shoulder, arm, neck, and upper-body muscle spasms, and limited her ability to write for extended periods of time. Visic was readmitted to law school on medical grounds in 2002 and graduated in 2005.

Despite her repeated efforts, the university would not remove her failed first-year marks from her transcript. Visic argued this constituted discrimination as she would be forced to reveal her past disability to employers requesting her transcript.

Her complaint was ultimately rejected along with a similar complaint against the university, which was dismissed by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in 2010. Visic’s civil action against the university remains outstanding.

The law society initiated a good character hearing. In its ruling released last month, a law society hearing panel found Visic demonstrated poor judgment in terms of her personal litigation, but not poor character.

“That lack of judgment may be born out of the fact that she is representing herself, that she is not sufficiently knowledgeable with respect to civil procedure, or that her zealousness relative to her cause has clouded her thinking,” the panel wrote.

David Cousins, Visic’s lawyer for the law society proceedings, says, “I admire Ms. Visic for her ability to pursue and ultimately be successful on the main point of her issues; her belief in her disability rights and the finding by the committee that she did not act dishonestly.”

According to the ruling, Visic admitted her pursuit of the University of Windsor through the HRTO was a mistake, especially in her attempt to have the university added as a party to her complaint against the LSUC.

“Her tenacity concerning her claim against the University has been breathtaking but not dishonest,” said the ruling. “Her position concerning her transcript and not providing her failed year marks is troubling but we do not find that it was dishonest.”

“We accept, as credible, that she honestly believes in her case and has diligently (some might say naively, obsessively and lacking in good judgment) pursued it through the court and the HRTO,” the panel added.

Her current employer and articling principal Saul Glober testified he saw a positive change in Visic over the three years she has worked for him, even though she reportedly had trouble with her two previous articling principals.

In July 2007, Visic started articling for Elia Associates P.C. When her articling principal Patricia Elia found out about her dispute with the University of Windsor, she requested a full transcript. Visic claimed this violated her human rights because she was forced to reveal her disability and therefore her termination from the firm was discriminatory.

In June 2011, the HRTO dismissed all of Visic’s allegations against the firm. During a reconsideration of that decision, the HRTO again refused to add the University of Windsor as a party.

Elia said the whole litigation process cost the firm nearly $100,000 and has since discouraged her from hiring another articling student.

“We are never going to have another articling student again. It’s not worth it. No articling student is an asset out of the gate,” she told Law Times in July 2011.

“You basically take on the burden of training them only to get sued or have your name dragged through the mud and then pay to defend yourself. What’s the upside for any law firm to do that?”

Prior to articling at Elia Associates, Visic articled at Payne Law but she was terminated after five months. Following her termination, she launched a wrongful dismissal action against the firm. The case was settled a year later.

At the end of her articles with Elia Associates, Elia recommended to the law society that Visic complete another six months of articles before being called to the bar. The law society adopted this recommendation and closed the file on Visic’s complaint. As a result, Visic filed a human rights action against the law society for its treatment of her. In August, that complaint was again dismissed by the HRTO, which also labelled Visic a vexatious litigant.

“I conclude that the applicant’s repeated attempts to pursue the same allegations against the University about her official transcript have reached the point of abuse of process. As such, I determine that a vexatious litigant order is necessary to prevent the applicant from initiating further human rights applications or making requests against the University and its agents with respect to the matter of her official transcript,” HRTO vice chairwoman Ena Chadha wrote in the decision.

As a condition of granting her licence, the LSUC ordered Visic to work under another lawyer for two years as she “will benefit from more mentoring from a lawyer.”

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