B.C. lawyer resigns pending disciplinary hearing

Vancouver lawyer Robert Palkowski has resigned from the practice of law rather than face disciplinary proceedings by the Law Society of British Columbia over serious allegations of professional misconduct.

In August, the discipline committee of the law society issued a citation against Palkowski, alleging he committed professional misconduct related to actions in 2003 and 2004. He was to appear at a hearing in May 2011.

There were 11 allegations which included that he circumvented the terms of a British Columbia Supreme Court order and attempted to mislead the court; he breached his ethical obligations by receiving funds from an individual and disbursing them for the benefit of a client without advising the individual that his interests were not being protected; and he represented parties in a B.C. Supreme Court action despite a conflict of interest.

The allegations are posted on the LSBC's web site and most relate to his representation of convicted fraudster Frederick Gilliland, who was arrested in 2003 on allegations he was responsible for a $29 million securities fraud spanning North America  and released on $750,000 bail six months later.

In July 2007, a B.C. Supreme Court judge accused Palkowski of orchestrating a “sham” bail scheme for Gilliland, when a friend Thomas Ryan agreed to put up the money and it was split among three individuals who did not know Gilliland or Ryan. Palkowski provided bank drafts of $250,000 to each of the three individuals to deliver to the court. The three individuals were described by Justice Glen Parrett as being “conduits or puppets” that were controlled by Palkowski.

The LSBC maintained it had a strong case against Palkowski.

“Depending on the findings of a hearing panel, Palkowski faced significant disciplinary action and possibly disbarment,” commented Stuart Cameron, the LSBC director of investigations. “With Palkowski’s resignation on these terms, the public interest is well protected because he will no longer ever be entitled to practise law in B.C.”

Palkowski was before the LSBC in December 2009 when he received a month suspension for conduct unbecoming of a lawyer after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2006. He was charged with dangerous driving causing bodily harm, impaired driving causing bodily harm, and failure to provide a breath sample. In January 2009, he pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm and was handed a 12-month conditional jail sentence and a 12-month license suspension.

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