Thursday, June 13, 2024

Burned In Memory

A British Columbia Law Society Hearing Panel found that an attorney had engaged unwelcome sexual conduct with a client

The Complainant testified that in late 2022 she read a news article reporting on the Respondent and his inappropriate conduct toward another woman, and it was this article that prompted her to come forward, initially to the reporter who had written the article, about her experience with the Respondent. The Complainant said that the reporter referred her to the Law Society.

The Complainant also testified that since events occurred six years earlier, there were some things she could not remember and other things that were “burned” in her memory. 

June 2016 office visit

The Complainant recalled attending the Respondent’s office for the first time by herself, and that when she arrived at his office there was no one sitting at the reception desk. The Complainant testified that a man she later identified as the Respondent came up behind her and put his arms around her upper chest and pressed her body against the front of his body. The Complainant said at that point the Complainant “froze” with fear. After a period described by the Complainant as approximately one minute, she said the Respondent chuckled, released her and asked her to come into his office.

The Complainant said that the Respondent was wearing a suit but looked “disheveled”, and despite the fact she was nervous about being alone with him she followed him to his office where he collected information related to the Family Law Services.

The Complainant said that as she sat in a chair opposite the Respondent in his office, the Respondent started rubbing his socked foot against her feet and leg under the Respondent’s desk. The Complainant said that she could not remember what the interview was about or what information she provided to the Respondent, but she did remember being “petrified”.  

As an exception to her statement that she could not recall what she discussed with the Respondent during the June 2016 Office Visit, the Complainant said that the Respondent asked her if she planned on having any more children, and after she responded in the negative, the Respondent said how lucky he would be if she was the mother of his children. This struck the Complainant as unusual, as framed photographs of what the Complainant assumed were the Respondent’s wife and children were sitting on the Respondent’s desk.

At the end of the visit

The Complainant testified that after the interview was over, and as she was leaving the Respondent’s office the Respondent leaned into her as if he was going to give her a kiss or hug. The Complainant said she panicked and turned her head away and ran down the staircase out of the building. According to the Complainant, after she got into her car she sat and cried for a few minutes before going home, and that she also cried sitting in her car in the driveway of her home.

October 2016 court appearence

According to the Complainant, during the October 2016 Court Appearance the Respondent looked “very disheveled”, “smelled bad”, and appeared to be drunk. She recounted that at one point when they were all sitting on a bench outside the courtroom, the Respondent put his hand on her thigh, her arm, and back. The Complainant said that at that time, she was sitting in between the Respondent and TW.

TW's evidence

TW said that at some point she, the Complainant and the Respondent were sitting together on a bench, when TW observed the Respondent putting his hand on the Complainant’s upper thigh. TW also said she observed the Complainant become noticeably uncomfortable when this happened.

TW said that after observing the Respondent touching the Complainant, she felt bad because she felt she had not been a good friend to the Complainant because TW had assumed that the Complainant had been exaggerating when the Complainant had previously informed her the Respondent had touched her inappropriately. TW said she apologized to the Complainant for not taking her seriously before.


The Respondent gave limited evidence and did not provide any evidence about the June 2016 Office Visit or the October 2016 Court Appearance, nor did he address the Complainant’s evidence or TW’s evidence about those events.


 Having found that all three parts of the Janzen test for sexual harassment are satisfied on the evidence, the Panel finds that the Respondent sexually harassed the Complainant, contrary to rule 6.3-3 of the BC Code.

The Respondent’s actions were sexual in nature, unwelcome and resulted in adverse consequences to the Complainant. The Panel finds that the Respondent’s actions constitute sexual harassment contrary to the BC Code.

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