Hamil­ton lawyer faces mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NI­COLE O’REILLY

A Hamil­ton lawyer who worked with es­tates and wills has been ac­cused of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct for al­legedly mis­man­ag­ing more than $500,000 and charg­ing ex­ces­sive com­pen­sa­tion to­talling more than $260,000.

David Arthur Stevens, whose Hines & Stevens law of­fice was on King Street West in Dun­das, has been sus­pended for more than two years, amid a Law So­ci­ety of Up­per Canada (LSUC) in­ves­ti­ga­tion. His out­stand­ing files were trans­ferred to an­other lawyer and the law so­ci­ety has been ap­pointed by the Su­pe­rior Court as trustee of his busi­ness.

Now the LSUC is pro­ceed­ing with its dis­ci­plinary case. It sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion July 26 ac­cus­ing Stevens of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct. Pos­si­ble penal­ties in­clude sus­pen­sion, a fine of up to $10,000, re­vok­ing his li­cence, lim­it­ing his prac­tice, re­quir­ing coun­selling or train­ing and a re­fund to clients.

Stevens could not be reached for com­ment. Lawyers who rep­re­sented him at past hear­ings said they no longer rep­re­sent him; and ac­cord­ing to the law so­ci­ety a cur­rent no­tice of rep­re­sen­ta­tion hasn’t been filed.

The Law So­ci­ety of Up­per Canada no­tice of ap­pli­ca­tion de­tails al­le­ga­tions of mis­man­ag­ing three trust ac­counts, in­clud­ing al­legedly mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing nearly $467,000, mov­ing an­other more than $150,000 with­out proper doc­u­men­ta­tion and charg­ing ex­ces­sive fees.

He’s also ac­cused of fail­ing to main­tain his books since 2011, al­low­ing a non­lawyer staff mem­ber to use his pass­word, leav­ing blank signed cheques around the of­fice and mis­lead­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors, in­clud­ing by say­ing he had re­tired when he ap­pears to have still been han­dling cases.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan af­ter he was not co-op­er­a­tive when the law so­ci­ety showed up for a “spot au­dit” in 2014. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 Law So­ci­ety Tri­bunal doc­u­ment about his tem­po­rary sus­pen­sion, the al­leged vic­tims in­clude “Ber­nice C.,” who died in July 2014 and whose es­tate was sup­posed to go to the So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals and a Catholic Church (they were not no­ti­fied); and “Mil­dred F.,” who suf­fered from de­men­tia and lived in a nurs­ing home.

In both cases Stevens is ac­cused of mis­man­ag­ing funds and ar­rang­ing ven­dor take-back mort­gages, where their prop­er­ties were sold at a re­duced rate to a com­pany that was a client of Stevens, who then sold them at dou­ble the value.

Ac­cord­ing to LSUC records, he was once found guilty of “con­duct un­be­com­ing of a bar­ris­ter” for re­plac­ing a ve­hi­cle’s Florida regis­tra­tion plates with On­tario ones to move the ve­hi­cle out of the U.S. and into Canada. He was rep­ri­manded and or­dered to pay $378.16.

Law so­ci­ety spokesper­son Su­san Tonkin said a hear­ing date has not been set in the case, but a con­fer­ence ex­pected to largely deal with sched­ul­ing is set for Aug. 21.

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