Mayor not guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS HAYES

SYD­NEY — Mayor John Mor­gan has been found not guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct by a hear­ing com­mit­tee of the Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety, which ruled that his com­ments about the ju­di­ciary were in­ap­pro­pri­ate but made in his ca­pac­ity as mayor of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity rather than as a lawyer.

The hear­ing com­mit­tee of three lawyers said in a rul­ing Wed­nes­day that Mor­gan, a lawyer, failed in his duty to en­cour­age pub­lic re­spect for jus­tice and failed to treat the court with cour­tesy and re­spect in com­ments he made dur­ing a CBC ra­dio in­ter­view broad­cast April 24, 2008, about a Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court rul­ing that dis­missed the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s law­suit against the prov­ince.

Mor­gan’s com­ments about the re­gional or po­lit­i­cal bias in the rul­ing of Jus­tice John Mur­phy were par­tic­u­larly of­fen­sive since they im­plied his de­ci­sion in the law­suit was without merit and was un­just, the hear­ing com­mit­tee said.

Those com­ments, which failed to treat the court with cour­tesy and en­cour­age pub­lic re­spect for the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, were clearly con­trary to a hand­book of le­gal ethics and pro­fes­sional con­duct for lawyers, the hear­ing com­mit­tee noted.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Mor­gan and a lawyer for the bar­ris­ters so­ci­ety agreed that dur­ing the ra­dio in­ter­view, the mayor said that he knew the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would face chal­lenges in the law­suit, stat­ing that vir­tu­ally all of the jus­tices in Nova Sco­tia are part of po­lit­i­cal struc­tures en­demic to the prov­ince, that Mur­phy had ties to the Con­ser­va­tive party and that in Nova Sco­tia, ev­ery­body in­volved in the ju­di­cial process has ties to po­lit­i­cal par­ties and struc­tures and that th­ese peo­ple are not “tree shak­ers.”

But Mor­gan wasn’t en­gaged in the prac­tice of law when he made the com­ments, clearly made them in his ca­pac­ity as mayor and never stated he was, nor was he re­tained to act as a lawyer in the Supreme Court case, the com­mit­tee hear­ing said.

“ Thus, notwith­stand­ing that Mr. Mor­gan’s com­ments are in­ap­pro­pri­ate and should not be con­doned, we find that Mr. Mor­gan is not guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct ... in re­la­tion to the charges set out in the com­plaint.”

The mayor re­sponded to an email re­quest from the Cape Bre­ton Post on Wed­nes­day for an in­ter­view about the rul­ing. In his email re­ply, he said he was at­tach­ing his sub­mis­sions to the bar­ris­ters’ so­ci­ety tri­bunal.

“Hope­fully you can de­ter­mine my po­si­tion from re­view­ing th­ese doc­u­ments so I don't get ex­posed to ad­di­tional com­plaint fil­ings from po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents,” the mayor’s email con­cluded.

Syd­ney lawyer Dwight Rud­der­ham who has con­firmed he made a re­port to the bar­ris­ters so­ci­ety that led to the al­le­ga­tion of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct against the mayor, said Wed­nes­day he was sat­is­fied by the rul­ing, which was made by three lawyers on the hear­ing com­mit­tee.

“ They heard the ev­i­dence, they would have done an in­depth re­view of the law and the pro­fes­sional ethics, and this was the de­ci­sion they came to,” he said. “It’s clear they did not con­done the com­ments of John Mor­gan, in fact the lan­guage was quite strong to the con­trary that they did not con­done the com­ments.

“ In fact, what they said around the com­ments with re­spect to Jus­tice John Mur­phy was very strong.”

Rud­der­ham said he had thought that a lawyer was sub­ject to the rules whether they were act­ing in their ca­pac­ity as a lawyer at the rel­e­vant time.

Mur­phy handed the mu­nic­i­pal­ity a set­back in April 2008 when he ruled that no jus­ti­cia­ble con­sti­tu­tional is­sue was raised by its ar­gu­ment that the prov­ince is fail­ing to meet its fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity un­der Sec­tion 36 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has been ar­gu­ing the prov­ince is shortchang­ing it by mil­lions of dol­lars each year by not ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tions un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The bar­ris­ters’ so­ci­ety rul­ing can be read on­line at www.nsbs.org/dis­ci­plineDe­ci­sions.php?dis­ci­plinede­ci­sion­s_id=40.

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