Hamilton lawyer faces misconduct allegations
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 Lawyers who represented him at past hearings said they no longer represent him; and according to the law society a current notice of representation hasn’t been filed.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.