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.