Legal aid earnings not wages: court

A disbarred Toronto lawyer has failed in an attempt to stop the garnishment of payments from Legal Aid Ontario.

Aliamisse Mundulai wanted his accounts characterized as “wages” under the Wages Act so that 80 per cent of the amount would be exempt from garnishment.

But in a July 12 decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Goldstein said the act was intended to apply to salaried employees, rather than independent contractors.

“He was not a salaried employee. Legal Aid did not deduct income tax, Canada Pension Plan contributions, or Employment Insurance premiums. The applicant was a self-employed lawyer. I therefore find the Wages Act does not apply to a Notice of Garnishment in these particular circumstances,” wrote Goldstein.

The case has its roots in a $60,000 judgment against Mundulai in favour of the City of Windsor. Mundulai had claimed $3 million in damages against two Windsor police constables for alleged battery, assault, and false imprisonment as a result of an incident while he was a law satudent at the University of Windsor in 2001.

But the trial judge found no liability on the part of the officers, and in fact concluded Mundulai had assaulted one of them by striking him while handcuffed.

In 2007, a notice of garnishment was served on LAO, who have since paid $38,000 to the sheriff towards the $60,000 debt. Mundulai claimed in court that he was owed much more, but LAO countered that it had refused to pay some of his accounts because an audit revealed he had been overpaid by more than $20,000.

Mundulai’s brief seven-year career was a chequered one. After graduating from Windsor, he was called to the bar in 2005. Just two years later, he was handed a one-month suspension for failing to co-operate with a Law Society of Upper Canada investigation. In 2010, he got another four-month suspension for failing to co-operate with another investigation into four complaints against him.

Then in 2011, a panel elevated his ban to six months after finding he had breached bail conditions by representing a criminal defendant while unsupervised. Mundulai had been charged with attempting to obstruct justice, although the charge was later withdrawn.

Finally, in February this year, the law society lost patience with Mundulai, revoking his licence to practise after a panel found he was ungovernable. The final straw came in a family law case where Mundulai failed to appear for the continuation of a hearing, and then ignored a court order instructing him to appear at the next hearing or remove himself properly from the record.

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