Monday, October 12, 2020

Artistic v. Bar License

A Member's emails with her client drew a $1,000 fine from a Hearing Committee of the Saskatchewan Law Society

As the Agreed Statement of Facts indicates, this complaint was triggered by the discovery of an e-mail exchange between the Member and her client, M.G., which took place slightly prior to and during a court proceeding in which M.G. stood charged with an assault against his spouse. The e-mail exchange began with the client confirming that the Member was ready for the proceeding to commence and indicating that the prosecutor was present in the courtroom. The Member then sent M.G. a satirical poem by John Cooper Clarke. It is not necessary to reproduce that poem here, but it is notable for its use of vulgar language, references to death, suicide and killing, and violent metaphors. M.G. responded that the poem “says it all about her and their process.” In the final e-mail in the chain, the Member said that she had saved the poem on her desktop “because it reminds me to find fun in these idiots rather than let them get me down.”

 Whatever its artistic merits – and we do not deny that sharp, even vicious, satire has its place in the literary canon – it is clear that the sentiments expressed in it, and the manner in which they were expressed, were a singularly inappropriate component of communication between the Member and M.G. in circumstances where they were preparing for a criminal proceeding arising from a charge of spousal assault. It is not entirely clear whether M.G. was referring to the prosecutor, the judge or perhaps his estranged spouse when he talked of “her and their process”, or who the Member meant to identify when she referred to “these idiots,” but it is not necessary to resolve this question to conclude that these communications constituted conduct unbecoming on the part of the Member.


  In the submissions, counsel described the aggravating factors that should be considered in assessing the penalty as follows:

1.        The primary aggravating factor is the potential injury that could have arisen from a communication that incited violence towards (or at very least dehumanized) a victim of a physical assault and/or the players in the justice system (the crown). This was particularly problematic due to the fact that the Member knew that her client was sitting in court at the time she sent her communications; and

2.  The conduct has the effect of eroding public respect for the profession

 The mitigating factors were enumerated as follows:

1. In the course of the investigation, the Member has been co-operative. The Member entered into an Agreed Statement of Facts and entered guilty pleas to the allegations herein. She has acknowledged her misconduct.

 We would also note that no prior record of discipline against the Member was put before us.

(Mike Frisch)

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