Crown Attorney’s concern: Public needlessly at risk from Ontario lawyers’ criminal conduct
Brampton crown attorney Steve Sherriff says that the Law Society of Upper Canada’s policy of not reporting crimes by lawyers to the police is “wrong”. Mr. Sherriff is also concerned that “the public is needlessly at risk” from lawyers’ criminal conduct because of this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ LSUC policy.
The recent ‘Broken Trust‘ series of articles in the Toronto Star quotes Mr. Sherriff and victims of crimes by lawyers, and looks into why over 80% of Ontario lawyers who commit serious criminal offences in relation to their law practice never face criminal sanctions.
In the Toronto Star series, Thomas Conway, former Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the organization responsible for regulating and disciplining Ontario lawyers, seems to disagree with Mr. Sherriff. The LSUC treasurer says that the organization is prevented from reporting lawyers who commit crimes to the police even though regulating bodies in some other provinces do make reports to their local police.
But what if LSUC itself became internally aware of allegations that a lawyer had committed crimes? What would happen then? Would the Law Society of Upper Canada itself step in and conduct an investigation, seize evidence, examine the court files and interview witnesses?
According to documents filed in Ontario courts, in November of 2012 former Toronto police officer and undercover investigator Donald Best wrote detailed letters to both the CEO and Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, Robert G.W. Lapper Q.C. and Thomas G. Conway, asking for assistance in retaining a lawyer. The letters also contained allegations of criminal and other offences by Ontario lawyers.
Mr. Best explained his predicament to Mr. Lapper and Mr. Conway thus:
“Several lawyers recommended that I contact the two of you at the Law Society of Upper Canada for assistance because the special circumstances of my case are deterring lawyers from representing me.
The difficulty I am experiencing in finding a lawyer stems from the fact that I have a voice recording* of my telephone conversation with two Ontario lawyers that, according to several experienced and senior counsel, proves the lawyers advertently misled the Court both in writing and orally.
I was subsequently convicted of civil contempt in absentia upon this (false) evidence created and submitted to the court by the two lawyers. In his reasons for my conviction, the judge specifically mentioned that he was relying upon the evidence of the two lawyers: their version of what was said in a phone call versus my version. My voice recording proves the evidence upon which I was convicted of civil contempt was a fabrication by the two lawyers.”
and “Some of the junior and senior lawyers I have spoken with were very forthright and told me that they cannot go against the big law firms because they receive work from them. Some have told me they work daily in the same professional or personal circles as the lawyers and firms who oppose me, and they cannot in these circumstances bring evidence or a motion that would harm the careers of the other lawyers.
One very senior civil lawyer told me “All lawyers lie. Live with it. Get over it.” Obviously I did not retain this man.
I am getting rather desperate because no experienced civil lawyer appears ready to take my case and I have approached dozens.”
Mr. Best also alleged in his letters that anonymous, threatening and harassing emails were sent to his witnesses from the Toronto office of the Miller Thomson LLP law firm as early as 2004. (At that time people were generally not aware that sending anonymous emails and other internet activities left trails of electronic evidence.) Some of the forensic evidence about this misconduct by Miller Thompson LLP law office personnel is posted on DonaldBest.CA here (PDF 424kb) and here (PDF 2mb).
In his letter to the LSUC, Mr. Best said:
“Anonymous threats to witnesses from Miller Thomson LLP computers
There is also strong forensic evidence that a series of threatening and harassing anonymous emails to my witnesses originated from the computer systems of one of the involved large Toronto law firms (Miller Thomson), starting in at least 2004 and carrying on for many years. There is strong documentary evidence that the Miller Thomson law firm was provided with this evidence in writing in 2009 and 2010, yet the firm’s lawyer, Mr. Andrew Roman, withheld the evidence from the judge during my case: all the while arguing that his client and firm were not involved.”
Copies of Mr. Best’s letters to the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the response he received are available here:
20121128 LSUC Best Letters (PDF 489kb)
What did the Law Society of Upper Canada do after receiving Mr. Best’s allegations that lawyers had lied to the court and also emailed anonymous threats to his witnesses?
To our knowledge at DonaldBest.CA, after receiving Mr. Best’s letters the Law Society of Upper Canada did nothing to examine the evidence filed with the court, including a secretly made recording about which Mr. Best stated “according to several experienced and senior counsel, proves the lawyers advertently misled the Court both in writing and orally.” To our knowledge the LSUC did nothing to preserve or examine evidence at the involved law firms.
To our knowledge the Law Society of Upper Canada did nothing to preserve or examine the Miller Thomson LLP law firm’s computer network and other communications records to determine which Miller Thomson personnel were responsible for the emailed threats to Mr. Best’s witnesses.
As the recently filed civil suit ‘Donald Best v. Gerald Ranking, Lorne Silver et al’ proceeds through the Ontario courts, perhaps additional facts will surface that will explain why the Law Society of Upper Canada made the decisions it did upon receiving Mr. Best’s letters.
None of the allegations has yet been proven in a court of law, and to our knowledge none of the ‘Best v. Ranking’ defendants has filed a Statement of Defence. Visitors to this website are encouraged to examine the legal documents and other evidence posted here and to make up their own minds about the civil lawsuit known as ‘Donald Best v. Gerald Ranking et al’. (Superior Court of Justice, Central East Region: Barrie, Court File No. 14-0815)
The Statement of Claim issued July 18, 2014 can be downloaded in PDF format right here:
* Legally Made Secret Voice Recordings
In Canada it is legal for anyone to record a conversation as long as at least one party provides consent. In other words, if only one person in a room or during a group telephone conversation provides consent for the conversation to be recorded, then the recording is legally made. There is no requirement to notify the other persons that you are making a recording of the conversation.
Different rules apply to the police and agents of the police.
All of the voice recordings presented at DonaldBest.CA were legally made according to Canadian law.