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Lawyers disciplined under judicial complaints protocol all women so far

|Written By Michael McKiernan

Correction: Judicial complaints have resulted in discipline against men as well as women. It is only the list of interlocutory complaints that has women on it and no men.  May 2, 2011

All the lawyers disciplined so far by the Law Society of Upper Canada under its judicial complaints protocol are women.

The protocols were developed by the law society with the chief justices of Ontario’s courts to encourage judges to report poor behaviour in court and improve communication about the outcomes of investigations. Judges have the option of asking for mentoring for lawyers whose behaviour is not serious enough for formal discipline, but only five requests have been made so far for mentoring.

The law society’s quarterly report on professional regulation reveals a total of 42 judicial complaints have been received since the introduction of the civility protocol in September 2009. The complaints are broken down by licensee type: 28 are against lawyers, 10 against paralegals, one against a paralegal applicant, and three against non-licensees.

But Bencher Thomas Heintzman suggested they should also be broken down by sex, because all four of the most serious cases highlighted by the report involve women.

“I just was concerned about that fact and I wanted to bring it to your attention,” Heintzman said at Convocation today.

Of the 42 complaints, 10 have progressed to the discipline process, involving six different lawyers. Four of those cases have resulted in interlocutory suspensions for the lawyers, and all of them are women.

Kimberly Townley-Smith was suspended last year, and is alleged to have made public and persistent accusations of corruption against judges in many courts. A former client alleges Townley-Smith sued three Superior Court judges on her behalf without informing her. The case is set to be heard by a law society panel at the end of May.

Jennifer Ann Bishop (not the one at Miller Thomson LLP) is accused of repeated uncivil and disrespectful behaviour in court and was suspended in July 2010.

Ann Bruce was suspended in February 2011 following complaints from several judges in the Hamilton Unified Family Court, including one who said Bruce threatened to report her to the Canadian Judicial Council during a court hearing.

The fourth lawyer, Toronto practitioner Elsie Peters was suspended in March 2011, although reasons have not yet been released.

  • Jennifer
    It's unfortunate that the judges making the complaints have only requested mentoring in five instances. It would be helpful to know what the remaining 24 lawyers did that resulted in a judicial complaint.
  • Katie
    The Judicial Complaints Protocol is wack. If a lawyer thinks that a judge has committed misconduct, then reporting them to the CJC is exactly what you are supposed to do. Has the Law Society forgotten about the independence of the Bar? It is supposed to allow lawyers to challenge bad behaviour on the Bench. If we can't challenge judges then who can?

    Boo LSUC. Policy is stupid. Fact that a whole four of them are women is irrelevant.
  • not Jack
    Since the satory didn't include any facts underlying the complaints, it is nice to have at least included gender predominance. What does it signify about the complainants, the system and the complained against? We need to know. Complaint facts would also be helpful.
  • Jack
    What's the purpose of noting the fact that the four interlocutory suspensions involve women? Are Messrs. Heintzman and McKiernan suggesting that these women are being treated unfairly because of their gender? Are they suggesting that we need to have gender parity in interlocutory suspensions? Are they suggesting that bad women lawyers should be given a free ride because of historical gender discrimination, etc.?

    Frankly, any reasonable person looking at the conduct of these lawyers would have to agree that the interlocutory suspensions were justified. No sane lawyer or judge would want to deal with these lawyers. The Law Society has done the administration of justice a service by suspending them on an interlocutory basis. This is about protecting the public and promoting respect for the administration of justice. I, for one, am not interested in sacrificing the public interest and the proper administration of justice on the altar of political correctness.

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