Trials Aren’t Tea Parties

By Pace Law | November 26, 2012

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert ConforziA leading Canadian corporate lawyer is before a discipline panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada for being “uncivil.”

The case arises from the lawyer’s successful defence of his client in the now famous securities fraud case which followed the Bre-X financial disaster. The lawyer, Joe Groia, successfully defended the Chief Geologist of the company, in a case that lasted a number of years.

The presiding judge did not sanction any of the lawyers at any point in the proceedings. A judge who later reviewed the case concluded “neither side in this case has any monopoly over incivility or rhetorical excess.”

One can conclude from this comment that the trial was pitched battle. Neither side was interested in taking prisoners. Just so, as trials are not tea parties. Both sides should expect that quarter is neither asked for nor given. In this case, however, the Law Society decided to prosecute Mr. Groia for professional misconduct arising from his alleged “incivility.”

While lawyers must remain mindful of the line between being aggressive and being rude, they are still duty bound to fearlessly advocate for their clients. The Law Society has for a number of years been trying the promote civility in the legal profession, but to my mind there is no actual definition of what constitutes “incivility.”

The Law Society seems to be making an example of Mr. Groia. In a case where both sides were apparently behaving in a similar manner, and where the trial judge made not one comment to either Counsel, one must wonder why Mr. Groia is being singled out. One could also speculate whether this case would have been brought at all if he had lost the original case.

It will be worth keeping an eye on this one.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto.