Notary found guilty of misappropriation

A Quebec notary with drug problems and in financial straits was found guilty of misappropriating more than $50,000 from a client by a disciplinary committee, the eighth case heard by disciplinary councils over the past year dealing with pilfering by legal professionals, something that has been described as the profession’s dirty little secret.

Daniel Girouard, who was admitted to the Chambre des notaires in 1986, was found guilty of breaching articles 1, 13, and 56 (7) of the Code of ethics of notaries — of failing to act with dignity, abiding by the strictest rules of integrity, and misappropriation. Girouard misappropriated $59,250 held in his trust account, and used it to pay his drug debts.

In an email to an investigator, Girouard said:

“I know anyway that I will be struck off. I am addressing you in order to minimise the misery of the parties in this case. As for the consequences for me vis-à-vis the Chamber and the tax authorities, I take responsibility.”

The disciplinary committee will determine his sanction at a later date. But it’s moot. Girouard has resigned.

The victim was reimbursed by the professional corporation’s indemnity fund.

Expert group recommends salary hike for provincially appointed judges

Barely two weeks after the Quebec Justice Minister and the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec publicly clashed over competing visions on how to deal with conjugal and sexual violence, a judicial compensation committee released a report recommending sizeable salary increases for the provincial judiciary, laying the groundwork for even further friction between the executive and the judiciary.

A five-member blue-ribbon panel (pdf) of legal and financial experts recommended boosting the renumeration of Court of Quebec judges from the current $255,000 to $310,000 by July 2022, which would make them the third best paid provincially appointed judges, behind Ontario and Saskatchewan. The independent committee would have recommended a more significant increase “had it not been for the uncertainty created by the pandemic” on Quebec’ economy and public finances.

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Two Quebec law faculties among top 100 worldwide

Two Quebec law faculties have been rated as two of the best 100 in the world to study law by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings.

McGill University’s law faculty, headed by Robert Leckey, was ranked 17th worldwide, maintaining its hold in the global top 20 since THE began publishing rankings specific to law in 2017.

The Université de Montréal’s law faculty was ranked 51st, climbing an impressive 42 spots.

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Clash between Quebec executive and judiciary flares up over how to deal with conjugal and sexual violence

An unusually public clash between the Quebec Justice Minister and the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec has materialized over competing visions on how to deal with conjugal and sexual violence cases, with little signs of abating.

The simmering skirmish between the executive and the judiciary erupted in the open shortly after Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau announced on Sept 28th the creation of a new division within the Court of Quebec to deal with conjugal and sexual violence offences, two weeks after the Quebec government tabled a bill that would move away from the traditional criminal justice framework to deal with gender-based violence and create a “specialized” court to deal with these offences.

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Informed bet

Odds are that the federal government is going to legalize single-event sports wagering. The Safe and Regulated Sports Betting Act (Bill C-218) was unanimously passed by the House of Commons, and is currently before the Senate.

Similar private member’s bills have previously made it this far, but this time it’s different. The bill has all-party support, and has the backing of the sports industry and police, both of which opposed legislation in the Senate in 2015. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a federal law prohibiting single-event sports betting outside of Nevada, giving each state the power to decide whether to allow it within their borders, has changed the North American gaming landscape, adding pressure on Ottawa to follow suit as 30 states and counting have either launched legal sports betting or passed legislation. “The U.S. Supreme Court decision was probably a trigger point because once it becomes regulated in the U.S. then you ask what is fundamentally different about that form of entertainment in Canada from the U.S,” notes Don Bourgeois, former General Counsel for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and now counsel with Fogler, Rubinoff LLP.

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Sexual harassment prevalent in Quebec legal profession, reports study

Sexual harassment and violence is rife in Quebec legal workplaces, the overwhelming majority of which goes unreported for fear of repercussions, claims a report that calls on the province’s legal actors to work together to take concrete steps to raise awareness and address the pervasive culture of silence and impunity that permits harassment.

Sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion takes place in all workplace contexts, formal or informal, is often perpetrated by a colleague or a partner with a higher hierarchical status, and has far-reaching personal and professional consequences, with up to nearly 20 per cent of women changing career paths following the sexual misconduct, according to the study conducted by researchers at the Université Laval who were given the mandate by the Quebec Bar.

“The study denounces the culture of silence and impunity that endures in the legal profession,” remarked Julie Lassonde, a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the Barreau du Québec who has developed a consultancy business focused on the areas of gender, sexuality and social justice. “That is what will shock the most.”

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Quebec Court of Appeal expresses frustration over systemic delays in securing trial transcripts

The Quebec Court of Appeal, exasperated by provincial government inaction, delivered a rare but stinging rebuke over recurring systemic unmitigated delays in securing trial transcripts that disproportionately affect English-speaking appellants which “regrettably” puts into question the proper administration of criminal justice in Quebec.

Calling for a paradigm change in approach, the Quebec Court of Appeal issued clear and explicit guidance over the preparation and production of trial transcripts as litigants in criminal proceedings should “not be left without judicial remedies” when they face unreasonable appellate delays resulting from the “state’s inaction.”

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Quebec Bar unveils report on sexual harassment in the legal profession

Half of Quebec female lawyers have been subjected to sexual harassment, a third of Quebec lawyers were the subject of unwanted sexual conduct, and 4.2 per cent of women suffered “negative consequences” for refusing to engage in sexual activities. Approximately one per cent of lawyers who were the subject of sexual misconduct reached out to police.

So reveals a report unveiled by the Quebec Bar, three years after it was launched. Only 14 per cent of Quebec Bar members, or 3785 members out of 28,000 lawyers in the roll, responded to the survey.

Following the 76-page report, the Barreau du Québec intends to launch free training on harassment and sexual violence, and is considering making it compulsory. A committee will examine other options.

Here is the report (en français).

Constitutional challenge over legal aid fees rebuffed by court

A Montreal criminal lawyer behind a constitutional challenge of Quebec’s legal aid disbursements’ system and a motion to revamp the legal aid fee system lost his bid after Quebec Superior Court held that it was a political matter.

In a long-awaited decision by the Quebec legal community, with several high-profile criminal defense lawyer’s associations as well as the Quebec Bar joining in the effort, Superior Court Justice Manon Lavoie held that while the issue deserved attention it was an administrative issue that had nothing to do with the constitutional rights of the litigant who raised the matter.

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