The Regina Leader Post
June 27, 2012 6:21 PM
By Barb Pacholik, Leader-Post
REGINA — Well-known Regina lawyer Tony Merchant is appealing a disciplinary order that suspended him from practising law for three months.
The notice of appeal was filed Wednesday after release of the decision by the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s disciplinary committee
“Given the range of penalty articulated in the publicly available cases involving lawyers breaching court orders or counselling clients to breach court orders and appropriately weighing the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case, the committee orders that the member be suspended for a period of three months in relation to count 1 and three months in relation to count 2,” the committee said in its ruling.
However, the committee ordered the terms be served concurrently since they were part of the same transaction. In addition, Merchant was ordered to pay $28,869 in costs.
The ruling is to take effect June 30 — unless Merchant seeks an order to put the suspension on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.
In February, the discipline committee released a decision finding Merchant guilty of two counts of conduct unbecoming a lawyer arising from his handling of a family law matter.
The incidents dates back to 2003, but there were delays in the complaints being heard because issues of solicitor-client privilege and release of documents were argued all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. That ruling revealed the investigation was sparked by a complaint from a woman who had secured an order against Merchant’s client to pay child support.
The committee found Merchant breached a court order that required his firm to pay certain settlement proceeds due to his client — identified in the document as Client X — into court pending determination of a related family property issue.
On the second count, the committee found Merchant had counselled and/or assisted his client to act in defiance of the court order.
Merchant has been sanctioned for conduct unbecoming a lawyer on three other occasions — in 1986, 1989, and 2000. Law society counsel had asked that significant weight be placed on the history in determining penalty on the most recent incidents, saying it demonstrated he was a “recidivist.” But the committee noted some of the previous matters were quite dated.
“The gap between the member’s last offences … and the present day is significant. This gap constitutes probative evidence suggesting that the member does not so lack in trustworthiness or otherwise pose a risk to the public as to make disbarment an option,” the committee said in its decision.