Manitoba lawyer suspended indefinitely for sexual harassment, breach of the duty of integrity

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The Law Society of Manitoba has suspended a lawyer indefinitely who has been practicing since June 2001, primarily in criminal defense and public interest law.

The Panel’s decision follows a series of charges relating to professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer.

The lawyer, RF, faced allegations in an amended citation dated May 20, 2022, which included one count each of harassment or sexual harassment, conduct unbecoming a lawyer, and a breach of the duty of integrity, as outlined in the Code of Professional Conduct. Additionally, a separate citation dated Sept.1, 2022, charged him with one count of professional misconduct.

The Panel’s decision was based on a joint submission, which included a two-month immediate suspension and an indefinite suspension until RF can demonstrate control over his addictions.

“He has struggled from time to time with addictions to drugs and alcohol. His periods of absence from practice (in 2008 and 2009, during the years 2020 to 2022, and currently), and his conduct-related interactions with the Society starting in 2017, have all arisen from, or been related to, these struggles,” it said.

The submission said the indefinite suspension will be in place “until such time as he demonstrates to the CEO of the Society that he has (his) addictions under control with a reasonable demonstration of stability such that he can be trusted to practise under such conditions.”

The submission also required him to pay costs of $5,000 to the Society.

RF’s history with the Law Society indicates a struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, which have impacted his professional conduct. In May 2022, he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer.

This was not his first disciplinary encounter; his previous history includes unwanted communications of a sexual and harassing nature to five women, beginning in August 2016.

The panel highlighted the importance of maintaining public confidence in the legal profession: “Integrity is the foundation of the legal profession… Without this level of trust, the profession cannot function.”

For more information, see The Law Society of Manitoba v Fawcett, 2023 MBLS 12 (CanLII)