The Court of Appeal for British Columbia set aside a Law Society of British Columbia review board decision to deny Arun Mohan’s articling application.
The decision, released on Monday, was the result of a long fight by Mohan to enter the profession.
In 1996, the University of British Columbia graduate cheated on a math exam during his undergraduate studies, states Justice Christopher Hinkson’s decision. Mohan also plagiarized an essay in 2002, while studying at UBC law school, and was suspended for 18 months.
He applied to enroll as an articling student in 2004, but then withdrew his application.
He then graduated with an LLB in 2006, and gained an LLM from the same university in 2010.
That year, he submitted a second application to the LSBC to enroll as an articling student. The law society ordered a hearing to decide if his application should be denied given his past academic dishonesty.
The society requested a copy of Mohan’s 2000 honours thesis in sociology, using freedom of information laws; the thesis was considered by the credentials committee to contain “substantial plagiarism,” wrote Hinkson.
However, Mohan claimed at the hearing the thesis seen by the committee was a draft version he had accidentally submitted to the university archives. The plagiarized passages were absent from the final version of his thesis he was graded on, he said.
The hearing panel found he was fit to be enrolled, after considering reference letters from law school professors and lawyers he had worked with.
But an LSBC review board found the hearing panel had failed to fully assess Mohan’s credibility or take into account circumstantial evidence. The board set aside the hearing panel’s decision, rejected Mohan’s application, and ordered him to pay $8,271 in costs.
In reaching a decision in Mohan v. Law Society of British Columbia, Hinkson considered similar cases considered by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s appeal panel. In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Kerry, the appeal panel held that it should defer to the hearing panel on findings of credibility.
Regarding Mohan, Hinkson wrote: “The review board erred in finding that the hearing panel made no finding with respect to the appellant’s credibility regarding his thesis.
“The majority of the hearing panel recognized the issues before them and made an implicit finding of credibility.
“This finding of credibility was entitled to deference from the review board.”
Hinkson also considered the 2008 Supreme Court of Canada case R. v. R.E.M., which found judgments need not set out every finding or conclusion.
He concluded: “In my view, the majority of the hearing panel must be taken to have made a finding that the appellant was credible. The fact that they might have stated their finding more clearly is no basis upon which to interfere with their decision.”
He set aside the review board’s ruling, restored the hearing panel’s decision, and awarded Mohan his costs.
Mohan’s lawyer Craig Dennis, a partner at Dentons Canada LLP, provided the following statement to Legal Feeds on his client’s behalf: “Mr. Mohan is pleased with the Court of Appeal’s decision.
“He is grateful for the support his enrollment application received from lawyers and a law professor for whom he has worked previously.
“Working with the law society, he looks forward to becoming a practising member of the law society and to showing that support to have been justified.”
Deb Armour, chief legal officer at the LSBC said: “It is the job of the law society to ensure every person who enrolls as an articled student is of sufficient good character and repute and is fit to become a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court. In this case, the Court of Appeal has spoken and the law society respects its decision.”