Saturday, December 14, 2019

Good Character Established

An applicant for bar admission established good moral character notwithstanding a record of academic misconduct per a decision of the Law Society of Ontario Tribunal Hearing Division.

Mr. Olowolafe first applied for a lawyer licence in 2012, but twice discontinued and restarted the application. He disclosed that the University of Toronto had determined that he had committed academic misconduct and plagiarism while enrolled as a student on three separate occasions in 2006, 2008 and 2011.

While applying for a licence from the Law Society, Mr. Olowolafe also applied to the Law Society of Alberta for a licence. In January 2016, a hearing panel of the Alberta Law Society rejected his application because he did not fulfil the requirement that he be of good character.

In September 2006, Mr. Olowolafe admitted that he plagiarized an essay assignment submitted for course credit. In addition to receiving a mark of zero on the assignment, his overall mark in the course was reduced by 40%

In June 2009, Mr. Olowolafe admitted to a second incident of plagiarism in an assignment submitted for course credit in 2008. The applicant received a final grade of zero in the course and an annotation on his university transcript that his grade was reduced “due to academic misconduct.” The university also suspended him for 12 months.

During his 12-month suspension from the university, Mr. Olowolafe studied abroad. He graduated with an LL.B. from the University of Northampton in 2012. In December 2012, the National Committee on Accreditation of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada issued him a certificate of qualification in Canada. The certificate permitted him to apply to any of the territorial or provincial law societies of Canada for a licence to practise law.

In April 2012, Mr. Olowolafe admitted to yet a third incident of plagiarism in a hearing before the University Tribunal of the University of Toronto. He admitted that he had “knowingly” plagiarized the work of another writer while completing a philosophy specialist degree, after having completed his legal education in England.

In the result, Mr. Olowolafe undertook to complete six hours of academic skills workshops as a precondition of his eligibility to graduate from the University. He received a grade of zero in the course in addition to a three-year suspension from the University, ending in April 2015.

He is now eligible

No doubt, academic misconduct is a serious ethical lapse. Repeated academic misconduct is even more concerning. Equally, Mr. Olowolafe’s failure to disclose the full extent of his academic misconduct on his applications for licencing is concerning. Not surprisingly, the fact that some of the academic misconduct was then so recent was the determining factor in the decision of the hearing panel of the Law Society of Alberta to deny Mr. Olowolafe a licence to practise in Alberta. It has, however, been well over 3.5 years since the Law Society of Alberta denied Mr. Olowolafe’s application. The last incident of academic misconduct occurred in 2011, eight years ago. No incidents of academic misconduct or other dishonest or unethical conduct have been reported since that time. There is reason to believe Mr. Olowolafe when he says he has matured in recent years.

Mr. Olowolafe was remorseful during his testimony. It was obvious from his testimony and from the testimony of his brother and mother that family and familial relationships are central to his life. He realizes that his misguided efforts to get ahead dishonestly brought shame on his family and on himself. He realizes he let himself down and he let his family down. He appeared from his testimony to be remorseful for his past mistakes and the impact they have had on his family.

Mr. Olowolafe’s testimony about his rehabilitative efforts was supported by character letters submitted at the hearing. His pastor wrote of Mr. Olowolafe’s transformation since becoming more involved in the life of his church. He believes that Mr. Olowolafe has recognized his faults, has resolved not to repeat his past mistakes but rather to contribute positively to his community. He further described several ministries in which Mr. Olowolafe is now involved. In a similar vein, a proprietor of a mobile application dedicated to educating the public on their legal rights wrote that Mr. Olowolafe assisted him as a consultant in his business. Citing various examples, this individual concludes that Mr. Olowolafe has “shown a commitment to developing his community, those who lack access to resources, and most notably, himself.”

While Mr. Olowolafe’s history of academic misconduct is serious, there has been a considerable passage of time since the last reported misconduct. Balanced against this misconduct is the evidence set out in the agreed statement of facts, the documents filed at the hearing and the testimony of the witnesses, all of which establish that Mr. Olowolafe is remorseful for his past misconduct, has made impressive rehabilitative efforts, is sustained in those efforts by a supportive family and church community, and appears intent on proving himself worthy to practise law as a member of the bar of Ontario.

For these reasons, we are of the opinion that Mr. Olowolafe is presently of good character and should be permitted to complete the qualifications and other requirements required by the Act for the granting of an L1 licence.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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