A high-profile civility case will be before a Law Society of Upper Canada disciplinary panel tomorrow. The proceedings against securities lawyer Joe Groia are set to run from Aug. 2-4. Earl Cherniak is representing Groia, while J. Thomas Curry and Jaan Lilles will present the case for the law society.
The long-running case stems from Groia’s actions in R. v. Felderhof. His client, John Felderhof, was facing insider-trading charges related to the infamous Bre-X Minerals Ltd. gold-dusting scandal. During the proceedings, Groia accused prosecutors for the Ontario Securities Commission of abuse of process and professional misconduct, largely over disclosure issues, said they were trying to convict his client “at all costs.” Judges later sharply criticized his rhetoric.
The LSUC allegations accuse Groia of repeated instances of “rude, improper or disruptive conduct” and of failing to treat the court with respect. They also accuse him of making “uninformed criticism of the conduct of prosecutors for the OSC.” In addition, he allegedly undermined the integrity of the profession by dealing with prosecutors in a manner that was “abusive, offensive or otherwise inconsistent with the proper tone of a professional communication from a lawyer.”
The LSUC has held up the case an example of its commitment to taking civility matters seriously. Groia, however, has defended his right to advocate vigorously for his client and argues the law society isn’t the place to be regulating courtroom conduct.