Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Parking Tickets Guy

A motion for interim suspension was granted by the Tribunal Hearing Division of the Law Society of Upper Canada in a matter involving a paralegal license

Mr. Low received his P1 licence to provide legal services on November 20, 2013. He is the owner of a website called parkingticketguys.com.  Between 2011 and October 19, 2016, he used the website to advise people that he could defend their City of Toronto parking tickets.

The website was connected to Parking Ticket Guys (“PTG”) a federally incorporated company solely owned by Mr. Low, who is its sole director.

 Between inception and October 19, 2016, Mr. Low used three business models with different fee structures but some common features:

•                     The person with the ticket would submit information regarding the ticket on the website.

•                     No one met with most clients in person at the time of retainer.

•                     The client was told to ignore any Notice of Trial as someone would attend to 'fight' the ticket.

•                     The client paid money in advance of any defence of the ticket or other assistance.

•                     If all went well with the intake process, a paralegal would file the ticket and a paralegal would attend at the court on the day of trial.

•                     The client would not attend with the paralegal on the day of trial and, absent a fatal flaw in the ticket, or the failure of the officer to appear, Mr. Low or the attending paralegal would 'offer a plea'.

•                     None of the advances paid was ever held in a trust account.

•                     No accounts were sent to any of the clients once the matter was complete.

The differences in the three business models related to the fees charged. From 2011 until about March 2016, Mr. Low provided a guarantee that he would save at least 50% on each City of Toronto parking ticket submitted to him. The client paid 50% of the value of the ticket as soon as the ticket information was submitted to the website. If Mr. Low lost the case, he promised to pay the fine.

From about March 2016 to about June 2016, Mr. Low charged a flat fee of $10 per ticket and again, if he was unable to win the case, he promised to pay the fine.

From June 2016 until the interim interlocutory suspension on October 19, 2016, Mr. Low charged a flat fee of $10 per ticket for filing the required notice and defending the ticket. If Mr. Low was unable to win the case, the client was required to pay the fine rather than Mr. Low.

In late 2013, the Law Society began receiving complaints regarding Mr. Low. The complaints concern failures to communicate or improper communication, failures to provide any services, and failures to honour the promises made.

Some of the complainants say they have been obliged to pay higher fines for their parking tickets when no one appeared at the trial. Some of the complainants say they were unable to renew their motor vehicle licence plate stickers, due to outstanding parking tickets they thought had been dealt with long before. Some of the complainants have been told by Mr. Low that they were committing a criminal offence by indicating they would complain to the Law Society about him.

Disposition

The panel considered whether making an order was required, or whether an order restricting the manner in which Mr. Low may provide legal services might suffice.

One element of this matter concerns the proper handling of client monies. Mr. Low adamantly maintains that he is not required to maintain a trust account, despite being cautioned and provided with the text of By-Law 9, s. 7 in a letter from the Law Society dated November 30, 2015. Mr. Low did not change his behaviour in response to the caution.

Mr. Low admits that some clients have not been paid or refunded monies which, under his first two business models, he had obligated himself to pay. If he had properly deposited client monies into a trust account, there would at least be some money available to refund to those clients.

This raises questions about Mr. Low's integrity which, again, are not for this panel to decide. In this panel's view, however, public confidence in the ability of the Law Society to regulate its licensees would be shaken if any order other than an interlocutory suspension were made. Further, the panel considers that potential harm to members of the public is not sufficiently mitigated by anything less than an interlocutory suspension. It is significant that the risk of harm to members of the public and to the public interest in the administration of justice is ongoing. We do not have a basis to conclude that the ongoing harm will end absent an interlocutory suspension.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2017/03/a-motion-for-interim-suspension-was-by-the-tribunal-hearing-division-of-the-law-society-of-upper-candad-mr-low-received-his.html

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