A Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel heard a colourful case yesterday in which a lawyer facing a misconduct hearing accused the LSUC’s counsel of trying to bribe a witness.
Counsel for Kumar Sriskanda, who is accused of fraudulent real estate transactions, told the hearing panel LSUC’s counsel Glenn Stuart must be removed from the record because he will be called to testify for tampering with a witness.
Stuart called the allegations “completely groundless,” and an attempt by Sriskanda and his counsel to delay the law society proceedings.
Sriskanda fired his former counsel for allegedly failing to represent him. His new lawyer Viresh Fernando says his client’s previous lawyer had surreptitiously recorded an interview with a complainant in which the complainant says Stuart told her he would help her recover her money via the law society’s client compensation fund if only she testifies against Sriskanda.
“That’s offering an inducement to a witness,” Fernando tells Legal Feeds. Sriskanda does not have the digital recording but says two other people have heard it.
Before the panel, Fernanado argued Stuart “ought to be here as a witness and not as an advocate.” His conduct has “stained” the proceedings, he added.
Stuart appeared unshaken by the claims.
“All the allegations that have been made are completely groundless,” he said in the hearing. “In my respectful submission, there has been no foundation laid that I am a necessary witness.”
Stuart also said the law society could not possibly remove its counsel every time someone makes allegations of misconduct.
“When something is said, it doesn’t necessarily make it true,” he continued. “To say I am a compellable witness doesn’t matter if he can’t show on the evidence that it’s necessary.”
The hearing panel decided to hear a motion for interlocutory suspension of Sriskanda’s licence despite Fernando’s protest that Stuart should not argue that motion. It is set to hear Sriskanda’s motion to remove Stuart in November.
Fernardo argued the law society brought the interlocutory suspension motion to retaliate against Sriskanda for accusing Stuart of misconduct.
“I am not going to mince my words, it’s retaliation — pure and simple,” Fernando said.
By Fernando’s own admission, the case is “an ugly mess.” He argued all the evidence the hearing panel has so far heard on the matter is “suspect” because his client had not been prepared to testify by his former counsel. Thirteen days were taken up to hear evidence in the matter.
Stuart countered that Sriskanda was asking for a do-over.
“The motions that are being brought are effectively seeking to start all over again,” said Stuart, adding Sriskanda is making “a conscious and deliberate” effort to derail the proceedings.
For his part, Stuart said he is not worried about damage to his reputation.
“I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years now and I think I’ve got a good reputation with the panels and with defence counsel,” he said.
He would not comment on whether he recalls talking to the witness he is accused of bribing and what he might have said that could have been seen as offering a bribe.