A Squamish lawyer has been ordered to pay $9,000 to the Law Society of British Columbia and will soon begin a suspension for professional misconduct. The lawyer plans to appeal the decision.
According to a written decision issued Oct. 16, Douglas Chiasson has been ordered to pay the Law Society and will serve a two-month suspension starting on Jan. 1, 2024. Although the hearing panel of Eric Gottardi, Karen Kesteloo, and Georges Rivard largely aligned with the Law Society, the panel decided on a penalty and suspension was less than the proposed consequence suggested by the Law Society.
“The panel rejects the respondent’s argument on the form of disciplinary action and accepts the position of the Law Society, although not in its entirety,” reads the decision written by Gottardi.
Chiasson told The Squamish Chief on Nov. 3 he plans to appeal the decision.
The penalty and suspension come as disciplinary action after it was determined in a 2022 tribunal hearing that Chiasson failed to “promptly remit” GST, PST and employee payroll source deductions and failed to inform the executive director of the Law Society of monetary judgments against his firm and trust shortages exceeding $2,500.
Counsel for Chiasson told the panel that Chiasson took “full responsibility for his conduct” and that a suspension was unnecessary considering he intends to retire by the end of 2023. However, Gottardi wrote that “no evidence was presented from the respondent in relation to his plans to retire by the end of 2023 or of his current financial circumstances.”
Moreover, Gottardi wrote this is Chiasson’s third citation and has had prior findings of professional misconduct which resulted in fines, the last of which was for $10,000.
“This is a significant aggravating factor,” wrote Gottardi. “It demonstrates that the previous disciplinary action did not adequately protect the public nor deter the respondent from continuing to commit further misconduct over a lengthy period of time.”
As such, the panel deemed a suspension was necessary.
“While a significant fine might be an appropriate disciplinary action for a different individual in similar circumstances, a short suspension is the most appropriate disciplinary action on the facts here,” Gottardi summarized.
Yet, Gottardi also concluded that this current finding of misconduct was “not egregious or at the highest end of the spectrum of seriousness.”
The fine involved is due in two parts, a payment of $2,500 is due on Dec. 29, 2023 and the other $6,500 is due on Feb. 28, 2024.
Note: This story was updated on Nov. 3 to include information regarding the lawyer's intent to appeal.