The Law Society of British Columbia has disbarred lawyer Malcolm Hassan Zoraik following his convictions in B.C. Provincial Court for public mischief and fabricating evidence.
In June 2010, Zoraik was found to have created a letter which falsely alleged jury tampering and then placed that letter in the courthouse in Victoria.
In his reasons for sentence, the Provincial Court Judge A.F. Brooks said: “In short, Mr. Zoraik manufactured a letter which he knew was likely to become evidence before a court, and indeed sought to have a court rely upon that manufactured evidence.”
In April 2009, Zoraik was the lawyer for the plaintiff in an action for damages arising from an automobile accident. The case was heard by a judge and jury. After deliberating for 20 minutes, the jury delivered a verdict of no liability on the part of the defendant. Zoraik applied to the judge to decline to enter judgment because of the brevity of the jury’s deliberations.
On May 6, 2009, before that application was heard, an envelope containing a letter was found on a counter in a small publicly accessible alcove, used for searching court files, located beside the Court Registry. The letter purported to be from the husband of an unidentified juror in a civil action and alleged that his wife had been “offered money for her vote in the court.”
The case described in the letter matched that which Zoraik acted as plaintiff’s counsel. The allegation was in fact untrue, but the existence of the letter gave rise to an investigation, as the result of which he was charged with and convicted of creating and depositing the letter in the courthouse contrary to sections of the Criminal Code.
Zoraik appealed his convictions, but his appeal was dismissed in June 2012.
Independent of the criminal proceedings, the Law Society of B.C. conducted its own investigation into Zoraik’s conduct. The LSBC benchers relied on Rule 4-40 of the Law Society Rules to expeditiously deal with the matter.
Rule 4-40 is only used in exceptional circumstances. It forgoes the need for a citation and citation hearing, allowing benchers to summarily suspend or disbar a lawyer who has been convicted of an offence that was proceeded with by way of indictment.
In their decision, the benchers noted the seriousness of Zoraik’s misconduct and the significant threat it presented to public confidence in the legal profession and justice system.
“For such a system to work, and for the public to have confidence that it is working properly, lawyers must uphold the law and its proper administration,” stated the decision. “Failure to do so subverts public confidence in the judicial system.”
While Zoraik has now been ordered disbarred, the LSBC had obtained a written undertaking from Zoraik in June 2010 that he would not engage in the practice of law.
A web site for Zoraik Law Offices provides a phone number now belonging to two lawyers in Victoria who now operate out of his old address.