Lawyers disciplined under judicial complaints protocol all women so far

Correction: Judicial complaints have resulted in discipline against men as well as women. It is only the list of interlocutory complaints that has women on it and no men.  May 2, 2011

All the lawyers disciplined so far by the Law Society of Upper Canada under its judicial complaints protocol are women.

The protocols were developed by the law society with the chief justices of Ontario’s courts to encourage judges to report poor behaviour in court and improve communication about the outcomes of investigations. Judges have the option of asking for mentoring for lawyers whose behaviour is not serious enough for formal discipline, but only five requests have been made so far for mentoring.

The law society’s quarterly report on professional regulation reveals a total of 42 judicial complaints have been received since the introduction of the civility protocol in September 2009. The complaints are broken down by licensee type: 28 are against lawyers, 10 against paralegals, one against a paralegal applicant, and three against non-licensees.

But Bencher Thomas Heintzman suggested they should also be broken down by sex, because all four of the most serious cases highlighted by the report involve women.

“I just was concerned about that fact and I wanted to bring it to your attention,” Heintzman said at Convocation today.

Of the 42 complaints, 10 have progressed to the discipline process, involving six different lawyers. Four of those cases have resulted in interlocutory suspensions for the lawyers, and all of them are women.

Kimberly Townley-Smith was suspended last year, and is alleged to have made public and persistent accusations of corruption against judges in many courts. A former client alleges Townley-Smith sued three Superior Court judges on her behalf without informing her. The case is set to be heard by a law society panel at the end of May.

Jennifer Ann Bishop (not the one at Miller Thomson LLP) is accused of repeated uncivil and disrespectful behaviour in court and was suspended in July 2010.

Ann Bruce was suspended in February 2011 following complaints from several judges in the Hamilton Unified Family Court, including one who said Bruce threatened to report her to the Canadian Judicial Council during a court hearing.

The fourth lawyer, Toronto practitioner Elsie Peters was suspended in March 2011, although reasons have not yet been released.

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