I recently wrote a post that sparked a firestorm of comments; most felt that I had overstepped myself for daring to suggest that the Law Society of Upper Canada ignores obvious conflicts in connection with its operations. This week we have another LSUC conflict issue.
Canadian Lawyer Magazine has reported on the ongoing proceedings between LSUC and Joseph Groia. As you are aware, Joseph Groia was found guilty of misconduct by a LSUC disciplinary panel last summer and he is appealing that decision.
The panel that will hear the appeal is comprised of 5 benchers – one of which is Peter Wardle.
Groia is seeking to have Wardle recused from that panel because as Canadian Lawyer reports, “‘There is a reasonable apprehension of bias arising from the fact that partners and associates at Mr. Wardle’s firm, Wardle Daley Bernstein LLP, regularly represent the Ontario Securities Commission as prosecutors and are closely involved in proceedings at the OSC and that Wardle LLP also regularly represents the Law Society of Upper Canada as prosecutors in discipline proceedings,’ wrote Groia’s counsel, Earl Cherniak, in a June 5 notice of motion…..Wardle has refused to recuse himself, the notice of motion notes.”
I emailed Peter Wardle for comment. He responded as follows: “Mitch, I can’t comment on this except to say that no decision has been made and that the Panel is convening to hear the motion in early July.”
I don’t know Joe Groia and I barely know Peter Wardle.
I also have no comment on the disciplinary decision against Joe Groia.
My concern is a very simple one that echoes past blog posts: LSUC has a tendency to make bad decisions which waste membership money.
Mr Wardle is a very bright guy who would add value to the appeals panel. However, he is not the only bencher in Convocation. Mr. Wardle was not elected as a bencher for sole purpose of sitting on appeals panels and he could have just as easily not been elected as a bencher– in other words, his status as a bencher is not based on his skills, but on the whims of lawyers in this province.
In other words, why is it so vital that Mr. Wardle sit on this appeals panel?
Why is LSUC wasting time and money fighting over a recusal that is quite frankly irrelevant given that there are numerous other benchers for this panel?
It appears that the Groia matter has now become personal to LSUC and it will not be told who can, and cannot, sit on the appeals panel.
The former CEO of LSUC and the current Treasurer have both cited complex prosecutions as a reason why LSUC burns through mountains of membership fees each year. Given the failure of LSUC to recognize a potential conflict on the Groia appeal panel and remove Mr. Wardle (thereby saving time and money), one has to wonder how many other very bad decisions have been made on past prosecutions that caused needless hearings and wasted money.
LSUC has to be far more strategic and sensible in these matters – the membership should not have its fees wasted because LSUC wants to puff out its chest in silly personality fights.
Remove Mr. Wardle from the panel and let’s get on with the appeal.