The Law Society of Upper Canada’s tribunal has refused to license as a paralegal a former justice of the peace, who was removed from the bench following a finding of professional misconduct.
The tribunal found Jorge Barroilhet-Santibanez did not meet the good character requirement to be licensed as a paralegal. He was removed from his role as a JP in 2009 after the Justice of the Peace Review Council found he tried to use his position to assist a family friend who was convicted of careless driving.
The review council also found Barroilhet-Santibanez improperly assisted his wife, who is a paralegal, by advising her in respect of court documents that went “far beyond general advice.”
“In sum, we are not satisfied that the applicant is of good character and that, therefore, we conclude that he should not be admitted as a licensed paralegal,” wrote tribunal chairman Howard Goldblatt.
Throughout this decision, we have pointed out our significant concerns about both the nature of the conduct which gave rise to his removal and his full appreciation and recognition of the severity of that conduct.”
Two years after his removal as a justice of the peace, Barroilhet-Santibanez applied for a paralegal licence through a provision that exempts former JPs from completing an accredited paralegal program and successfully completing licensing exams.
Barroilhet-Santibanez, who did not testify at this Justice of the Peace Review Council hearing, told a law society investigator for the first time his version of the family friend incident that played a major role in the demise of his career. The review council had found that while in office, Barroilhet-Santibanez called a colleague, JP Trillis Miller, to ask her to reopen a case in which his family friend was convicted in absentia for careless driving. Miller later detailed the phone call in an e-mail to the regional senior JP.
“. . . In speaking with Justice Barroilhet, he advised me that a friend of his, Chad Evans, had received a ticket, but because Mr. Evans lives in the United States, Justice Barroilhet further advised me that he told Mr. Evans that he would take care of the ticket,” wrote Miller.
“Justice Barroilhet in speaking to me asked if I would deal with the matter and re-open the matter for his friend. I advised him that I could not because the affidavit was not signed by Mr. Evans. Justice Barroilhet advised me that we (as justices) are independent and that the nice thing about being independent is that we can make these types of decisions and Justice Barroilhet then asked me to consider overlooking the fact that the affidavit was not signed.”
Miller went on to say she told Barroilhet-Santibanez she would not consider re-opening the matter without the affidavit being signed.
“He then suggested he would sign the affidavit because he was looking after the matter for his friend and that he had hired the agent, Ms. Hernandez, on behalf of Mr. Evans,” she added.
In an interview with a law society investigator, Barroilhet-Santibanez said a huge miscommunication had occurred between him and Miller during that phone call. He told her he would sign “an affidavit” detailing what happened with Evans, but he never said he would sign the affidavit on Evans’ behalf.
He added he was being sarcastic when he made the comments about judicial independence. He also suggested Miller could have misunderstood his comments because of his accent, or the medication she may have been taking.
None of those explanations convinced the tribunal about the propriety of the call.
“It was highly improper, to say the least, for the applicant to sign Mr. Evans’ affidavit. Although the applicant testifies that this was not his intent, he has not provided the panel with a credible explanation of what other affidavit he was offering to sign and, as importantly, he could sign,” Goldblatt said.
“Any information that the applicant had with respect to Mr. Evans’ non-attendance would be hearsay and would need to be based on information conveyed to him through his wife or his wife’s firm since he should not have had any direct contact with Mr. Evans in respect of this matter,” Goldblatt continued.
“At the same time, it is equally inappropriate for the applicant to become involved and offer to sign an affidavit in respect of a case handled by his wife’s firm with which he was supposed to have an arm’s length relationship. While the applicant stressed there was a difference between ‘the’ affidavit and ‘an’ affidavit, the applicant has not explained in a satisfactory way what ‘an’ affidavit would contain.”
The tribunal also said Barroilhet-Santibanez failed to understand the severity of his misconduct as justice of the peace.
“His comments during the interview with the investigator concerning the medication which Her Worship Miller may have been on, the concern he had that he not commit an assault when seeing her at a conference and questions about the composition of the Review Council are only some examples of the applicant’s evidence which reinforces, in our view, that he has not fully accepted the severity of his misconduct and his breach of the public trust and that he is prepared to blame others, in part, for the situation in which he now finds himself,” Goldblatt wrote.
Frank Alfano, who represented Barroilhet-Santibanez at the tribunal, did not respond to a request for comment.