Legal con­cerns

Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety seek­ing dis­bar­ment for Hal­i­fax de­fence lawyer Lyle Howe


Lyle Howe should be dis­barred, the Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety says.

Af­ter the long­est dis­ci­plinary hear­ing in the his­tory of the so­ci­ety, a panel re­leased a de­ci­sion in July find­ing the Hal­i­fax lawyer guilty of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct and pro­fes­sional in­com­pe­tence. Now the panel — made up of two lawyers and a pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tive — must de­cide on the ap­pro­pri­ate penalty for Howe.

A sanc­tion hear­ing was held Tues­day at a Hal­i­fax ho­tel, with a de­ci­sion re­quired within 30 busi­ness days.

“Over the course of sev­eral years, and in re­sponse to nu­mer­ous com­plaints, the so­ci­ety en­gaged in many dif­fer­ent ef­forts to help Mr. Howe prac­tise eth­i­cally and com­pe­tently, in­clud­ing prac­tice con­di­tions and close prac­tice su­per­vi­sion,” Vic­to­ria Rees, the bar so­ci­ety’s act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, told The Chron­i­cle Her­ald on Tues­day.

“Ul­ti­mately and re­gret­fully, these ef­forts were not suc­cess­ful in en­sur­ing Mr. Howe’s eth­i­cal com­pli­ance in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

“On this ba­sis, and the hear­ing panel’s find­ings that Mr. Howe is guilty of sig­nif­i­cant pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct and pro­fes­sional in­com­pe­tence, it is the so­ci­ety’s po­si­tion that there are no other av­enues for pub­lic pro­tec­tion avail­able other than dis­bar­ment.”

The so­ci­ety also wants Howe to re­im­burse it up­wards of $600,000 in hear­ing costs.

“While our to­tal costs were much higher, based on the panel find­ings on merit and ad­min­is­tra­tive law prin­ci­ples, the so­ci­ety is seek­ing $450,000 to $600,000, which rep­re­sents 40 to 60 per cent of the to­tal,” Rees said.

The so­ci­ety says the money could be paid over a 10-year pe­riod. Howe says he does not have the re­sources to pay the bill.

Howe, 32, grad­u­ated from Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity’s Schulich law school in Hal­i­fax in 2009 and was called to the Nova Sco­tia bar in 2010.

The bar so­ci­ety an­nounced in June 2015 that Howe was fac­ing al­le­ga­tions of pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct and in­com­pe­tence stem­ming from his legal prac­tice be­tween 2011 and 2014.

A dis­ci­plinary hear­ing got un­der­way in De­cem­ber 2015 and sat for about 60 days, gen­er­at­ing 10,000 pages of tran­scripts.

Howe, who is African-Nova Sco­tian, ar­gued through­out the hear­ing that he was the vic­tim of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The bar so­ci­ety first sus­pended Howe from prac­tis­ing law in June 2014 af­ter a Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court jury found him guilty of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a 19-year-old Hal­i­fax woman, but ac­quit­ted him on a charge of ad­min­is­ter­ing a stu­pe­fy­ing drug.

The Nova Sco­tia Court of Ap­peal quashed the con­vic­tion in Septem­ber 2015 and or­dered a new trial. Howe’s legal li­cence was re­in­stated with more than 30 re­stric­tions and con­di­tions.

The Crown dropped the crim­i­nal charges against Howe in Fe­bru­ary 2016, say­ing the com­plainant did not wish to tes­tify at a sec­ond trial.

Last Septem­ber, Howe was sus­pended again af­ter the so­ci­ety re­ceived three new com­plaints of mis­con­duct and in­com­pe­tence against him. Those charges will be ad­dressed at a sep­a­rate hear­ing.


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