Friday, October 18, 2019

Revocation Notwithstanding Mitigation

The Tribunal Hearing Division of the Ontario Law Society revoked an attorney's license

The Lawyer, Mercy Dadepo, admits that she committed professional misconduct when she: falsely billed Legal Aid Ontario; counselled two of her clients (Clients A and B) to be dishonest; denied that she had counselled Client A to be dishonest; encouraged a staff member to swear a false statutory declaration in respect of Client A; and commissioned that statutory declaration.

Counselling dishonesty

 In early January 2017, Client A complained to the Law Society that Ms. Dadepo had counselled her to be dishonest in respect of her Immigration Review Board (IRB) hearing. Specifically, Client A alleged that Ms. Dadepo instructed her not to attend in the hearing room at her November 26, 2016 IRB hearing, but instead to wait on another floor of the building so that Ms. Dadepo could determine if the IRB member assigned to the matter would be favourable. According to Client A, Ms. Dadepo said that if the IRB member was not likely to be favourable, Ms. Dadepo would inform her and that she should then leave the building, call the IRB office and advise that she was stuck in traffic.

Upon being advised of the Law Society complaint, Ms. Dadepo initially denied that she had counselled Client A to be dishonest or that such a conversation had ever taken place. Ms. Dadepo also encouraged a member of her staff to swear a statutory declaration falsely denying that she had counselled Client A to be dishonest with the IRB, and she commissioned the staff member’s statutory declaration, although she knew that it contained false statements. Ms. Dadepo then faxed the false statutory declaration to Client A’s new counsel.

After being confronted with the evidence of an audio recording of a conversation between herself and Client A (recorded by Client A during her “prep session” on the night before the IRB hearing), Ms. Dadepo admitted to counselling Client A to be dishonest and to commissioning a false affidavit. She acknowledged that what she had done was wrong, but explained that her judgment had been clouded by her concern that her client would not get a fair hearing by certain IRB members. She said that when her behaviour was reported to the Law Society, she initially lied about it and commissioned a false affidavit to support that lie because she was overwhelmed by the fear of losing her licence.

The Law Society subsequently learned, and Ms. Dadepo has admitted, that in October 2016, she counselled another client (Client B) to be dishonest in respect of his IRB hearing in the same way that she had done with Client A.

Bills

Ms. Dadepo admitted the following:

•         Between January 2014 and May 2017, she double-billed LAO in approximately 246 separate incidents for a total of 430.5 hours in the amount of $48,872.86, not including HST, in relation to 207 LAO certificates that she held on behalf of refugee claimant clients;

•         Between January 2014 and May 2017, she knowingly inflated the time she spent before the IRB in 202 refugee hearings and overbilled LAO a total of 343.03 hours in the amount of $40,137.31, not including HST;

•         Between January 2014 and May 2017, she knowingly overbilled LAO in approximately 31 separate incidents for hearings that did not occur and/or for hearings that she did not attend for a total of 65.21 hours in the amount of $7,626.08, not including HST.

Sanction

 While there are some mitigating factors (including Ms. Dadepo’s repayment to LAO, her ultimate acceptance of responsibility and the good work that she did for many of her clients), there are no exceptional circumstances here to displace the presumption of revocation. Moreover, the overbilling of LAO (on numerous occasions and over a number of years) was not the only finding of dishonesty in this case. In an attempt to shield herself from Law Society proceedings, Ms. Dadepo encouraged a member of her staff to swear a false statutory declaration and then commissioned that document, knowing it to be false. This conduct, too, stands in complete contrast to the trustworthiness and credibility expected of a member of the legal profession.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2019/10/the-tribunal-hearing-division-of-the-law-society-the-lawyer-mercy-dadepo-admits-that-she-committed-professional-misconduct.html

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