Doug Moores re­morse­ful at hear­ing

Law So­ci­ety tri­bunal ad­journs to con­sider sanc­tions for Bay Roberts lawyer

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA

A prom­i­nent lawyer from the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion apol­o­gized at a tri­bunal Wed­nes­day, July 10 for his in­volve­ment in sev­eral real es­tate trans­ac­tions that may have led to mort­gage fraud.

Doug Moores openly wept at times dur­ing the Law So­ci­ety of New­found­land and Labrador hear­ing held at its of­fice in down­town St. John’s. Moores has pleaded guilty to nine of­fences in con­nec­tion to 12 real es­tate trans­ac­tions. Eleven of those trans­ac­tions hap­pened within a twoyear pe­riod from De­cem­ber 2009 to De­cem­ber 2011. The first in­ci­dent dates back to Novem­ber 1999.

Ac­cord­ing to an agreed state­ment of facts, Moores un­know­ingly may have per­mit­ted mort­gage fraud to oc­cur through or­di­nary neg­li­gence. Moores’ lawyer, Peter O’Fla­herty, pointed out Moores has been say­ing this ever since he be­came aware of the is­sue on May 1, 2012.

The value of the trans­ac­tions in­volved to­tals close to $2.3 mil­lion, al­though the agreed state­ment of facts shows Moores did not pocket any money from those trans­ac­tions be­yond his pro­fes­sional fees, which to­talled ap­prox­i­mately $32,000.

The of­fences Moores pleaded guilty to in­clude fail­ing to act with in­tegrity, fail­ing to prop­erly su­per­vise le­gal as­sis­tants, fail­ing to com­ply with writ­ten in­struc­tion, fail­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice, and fail­ing to act with im­par­tial­ity, amongst oth­ers.

O’Fla­herty said his client ad­mit­ted to mak­ing er­rors and took im­me­di­ate re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions, fully co-op­er­ated with the law so­ci­ety, and has since then prac­tised law un­der su­per­vi­sion with al­most no is­sues to re­port. He said his client failed to iden­tify red flags for pos­si­ble mort­gage fraud and was duped by oth­ers.

“There’s an in­di­vid­ual at the cen­tre of this,” said O’Fla­herty.

An ini­tial law so­ci­ety com­plaint filed in Septem­ber 2012 by then vice-pres­i­dent Ge­orge L. Mur­phy against Moores claimed he know­ingly com­mit­ted mis­con­duct. How­ever, that com­plaint was re­placed by an amended com­plaint this April, to which Moores sub­se­quently pleaded guilty.

He noted Moores did have one is­sue come up ear­lier this year re­lated to an omis­sion on his client’s part. He said Moores re­ceived a let­ter of cau­tion as a re­sult.

O’Fla­herty is call­ing for a sus­pen­sion at the lower range of one-to-six months for Moores. He also em­pha­sized the mat­ter only came to light af­ter the law so­ci­ety is­sued a me­moran­dum con­cern­ing the is­sue of mort­gage fraud.

Cit­ing the fact mort­gage fraud is rel­a­tively new to New­found­land and Labrador com­pared with other parts of the coun­try, O’Fla­herty said Moores’ pun­ish­ment should not fall in line with lengthy sus­pen­sions handed down in ju­ris­dic­tions like On­tario, where mis­con­duct re­lat­ing to mort­gage fraud has been more com­mon­place. He said pun­ish­ments for such forms of mis­con­duct vary across Canada de­pend­ing on it ex­pe­ri­ence with the is­sue.

Lawyer be­moans me­dia cov­er­age

Moores’ lawyer said his client has al­ready suf­fered greatly through a story that was pub­lished on­line by The Com­pass and The Tele­gram on Mon­day, July 9, and in the July 10 print edi­tion of The Tele­gram.

O’Fla­herty took par­tic­u­lar is­sue with how the ar­ti­cle was writ­ten, claim­ing it gave the im­pres­sion Moores swin­dled clients by im­prop­erly tak­ing money out of a trust ac­count. He re­it­er­ated his client did not make any im­proper fi­nan­cial gain through th­ese trans­ac­tions.

Bern Cof­fey, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the law so­ci­ety for the tri­bunal, sug­gested Moores’ ac­tions could merit a full re­vo­ca­tion of his li­cence to prac­tice law. He said Moores am­ple ex­pe­ri­ence prac­tis­ing law makes his mis­con­duct all the more alarm­ing, adding Moores ig­nored his duty of care re­peat­edly.

Moores was ad­mit­ted to the bar in 1972 and prac­tises law with Moores & Collins Law Of­fices in Bay Roberts.

If the panel does not re­voke Moores’ li­cence to prac­tise law, Cof­fey said it should sus­pend Moores for 15-to-24 months. He also said re­stric­tions should be placed on what cases Moores can han­dle once the sus­pen­sion con­cludes. In par­tic­u­lar, he said Moores should not be al­lowed to re­sume deal­ing with real es­tate mat­ters.

O’Fla­herty called Cof­fey’s rec­om­men­da­tions for sanc­tion­ing se­vere and ar­gued that such a re­stric­tion would be ex­ces­sive given Moores has com­pe­tently han­dled real es­tate mat­ters since last May.

Cof­fey con­tends a sus­pen­sion of one-totwo months, as sug­gested by O’Fla­herty, would be woe­fully in­ad­e­quate and send the wrong mes­sage to law so­ci­ety mem­bers in the prov­ince and the gen­eral pub­lic.

O’Fla­herty called on char­ac­ter wit­nesses to ap­pear at Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing. Fel­low lawyer Ger­ald O’Brien, who has dealt with Moores on hun­dreds of real es­tate deals over the years, said it seemed like Moores “took his eye off the ball.” O’Brien said he holds Moores in the high­est es­teem and that he has never wor­ried about the man’s in­tegrity.

Both O’Brien and fel­low char­ac­ter wit­ness Wil­liam Mar­shall, a re­tired Court of Ap­peal judge, ref­er­enced how hard this sit­u­a­tion has been on Moores’ fam­ily. Moores, seated with his face turned away from those who ob­served Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing, be­came emo­tional as ref­er­ences were made to his fam­ily. He could be heard crying.

Dur­ing his brief state­ment to the tri­bunal panel, Moores said he was very re­morse­ful and had learned a great les­son. He vowed never to fail again in be­ing aware of his duty to the pub­lic and the law pro­fes­sion.

A pub­li­ca­tion ban was agreed to by all par­ties in re­la­tion to in­for­ma­tion that could iden­tify other par­ties re­ferred to dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing.

The hear­ing was ini­tially sched­uled for two days, but con­cluded on Wed­nes­day. There is no spe­cific timeline in place for when a de­ci­sion on sanc­tions for Moores will be de­liv­ered. arobin­son@thetele­gram.com

Twit­ter: @TeleAn­drew

The Western Union Ca­ble Build­ing was opened in 1913 and is cel­e­brat­ing its 100th birth­day this sum­mer.

Pho­tos by Nicholas Mercer/the Com­pass

His­toric Bay Roberts road Ca­ble Av­enue is set to turn 100 this sum­mer and has been named a provin­cial her­itage dis­trict. The town is plan­ning a cer­e­mony to com­mem­o­rate the event.

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