Oft-married Surrey lawyer suspended by law society
Surrey lawyer Aaron Murray Lessing has been suspended from his family law practice for a month after a review of a disciplinary action determined that a suspension was more appropriate than the hefty fine he had been ordered to pay.
Lessing, who has been married five times, was ordered in October 2012 by the Law Society of B.C. to pay $22,000 in costs and a fine for committing “professional misconduct” and engaging in conduct “unbecoming a lawyer.”
The judgment was related to two separate citations issued by the law society in 2011.
The first, in March 2011, was the result of Lessing failing to report as required the $187,000 of debt he carried, some of which was the result of his marriage breakups.
The second citation was issued in July after Lessing breached three court orders during a matrimonial dispute with his ex-wife in which he represented himself. He was also found to be in contempt of court at one point, although this was later “purged.”
Complicating the case, the review panel noted, was that Lessing had raised his mental state — depression, avoidance behaviour and “symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder” — during the original hearing that resulted in the fine. The review panel took Lessing’s mental state into account as a mitigating factor, but ultimately ruled that a suspension was warranted.
“(T)his panel feels that the mitigating fact of the respondent’s mental health does not go as far as diminishing the disciplinary action to a fine,” the review panel concluded. “Public confidence in the legal profession, as seen through the eyes of the average citizen requires a suspension.
“In this case, a fine would not inspire confidence in the legal profession or the disciplinary process. However, a minimum suspension would.”
Lessing was called to the bar in 1991, and has practised law for more than 20 years. He could not be reached for comment.
The suspension will begin Dec. 11.