Two immigration lawyers with seperate offices just a door apart on the second floor of a strip mall in northeast Calgary have had their disagreements. Perhaps that is not so unusual for two direct competitors but remarkably the rivalry ended up in a fist fight in the parking lot and the appearance of at least one of the lawyers before a Law Society of Alberta disciplinary hearing.
Calgary police investigated the incident but no charges were laid.
The two brawling barristers are Surinder Randhawa and Dalwinder Hayer. Randhawa has been a practising lawyer in Alberta since 1989 and Hayer since 1994. They have known each other for 27 years and have occasionally done business. They both serve primarily the Indo-Canadian community and focus on immigration and real estate.
Randhawa was publically reprimanded by the Law Society of Alberta for his bad behaviour. The discipline committee included Douglas R. Mah and Amal Umar.
“Adults within a civilized society do not resort to fighting or abusive language to make their point. Moreover as a Member of the legal profession, you're looked upon to set an example, not just of honesty and integrity and competence but also professionalism,” said the LSA report.
“You have been a Member of the Bar of two countries, and you no doubt appreciate that all over the civilized world, ours is a profession of high standards and expectations. Your daughter has chosen to follow in your footsteps as a lawyer, and you are right to be proud of her; but I pose to you, I suppose, rhetorically, what kind of an example have you set for her and how is she to learn from you as a role model?” said the reprimand.
The LSA’s report and reprimand was made in November but not made public until late last month. It includes and agreed statement of guilt.
Hayer was not sanctioned by the committee’s report noted: “There is some suggestion that Mr. Hayer is equally to blame. It does take two to make a fight, but we can't deal with Mr. Hayer today.”
Neither lawyer returned calls from Legal Feeds, but at the law society hearing Randhawa’s counsel cited some unspecified “bad blood” between the two and asserted “Mr. Hayer may have insulted Mr. Randhawa and his family at one point.”
Hayer did respond to Legal Feeds and he is angry that because the law society reached a settlment with Randhawa there was no hearing and Hayer was never called to testify. He says allegations of an insult by him to Randhawa's family are groundless.
The law society states that about a year before the April 2011 parking lot brawl Randhawa took a rock, and, a week later, an axe into the ground floor of Hayer’s office unit “in an apparently threatening manner.” It also found that in the fist fight Randhawa received some unspecified injury and his eyeglasses were broken.
According to Hayer, Randhawa started the fight by pushing Hayer apparently over a disputed parking spot in the shoppiung mall. "Naturally I had to defend myself," says Hayer.
The fight may have been linked to an incident cited in the law society report which occurred the year before at a law conference in Halifax. There, within the hearing of others, the report said Randhawa used loud and abusive language toward Hayer. They were speaking Punjabi, and Hayer says Randhawa was angry because Hayer had sublet part of his office to yet another lawyer, adding even further competition in the immediate area of Randhawa's law business.
However, Hayer says it was Randhawa who sold him the two-story office unit in 2005 and Hayer subsequentlt rented part of it to a mortgage broker and part to another lawyer.
Randhawa did not respond to calls for comment.
This is not Randhawa’s first brush with the law society. He has had several run-ins and has been suspended on several occasions,including for failing to follow the law society’s accounting rules and failing to serve clients. He is currently serving a 14-month suspension — on matters unrelated to the brawl — and was assessed an estimated $80,000 in costs.
He was reprimanded in that case as well, with the Law Society of Alberta, calling his behaviour “shameful” and stating he had “brought disgrace upon the LSA and the community he served.”
Updated Jan 12: Comments from Mr. Hayer added.