Jeremy Diamond’s misleading advertising misconduct requires more than a reprimand, a Law Society Tribunal has concluded, rejecting a joint submission between the Toronto personal injury lawyer and prosecutors.
Last year, Diamond admitted before a disciplinary panel that between 2013 and 2017 he had improperly marketed personal injury legal services that he did not provide, failing to disclose “clearly and prominently” that Diamond & Diamond referred thousands of potential clients to other lawyers for fees .
In written submissions, Diamond argued his role was “not dissimilar to that of many senior lawyers who focus on business development and firm management, while serving as a mentor for junior lawyers and maintaining some involvement in individual cases.”
Diamond’s legal team, led by Toronto criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan, and law society prosecutors jointly submitted that a reprimand was the appropriate penalty, proposing Diamond pay $40,000 in costs.
However, Malcolm Mercer, tribunal chair, said he was concerned that the proposed reprimand would amount “to a mere slap on the wrist.”
That triggered more hearings, including over Diamond’s attempt to have Mercer removed as panel chair. That failed, and subsequently more arguments were held last fall on whether a reprimand was a sufficient penalty.
Last week, the tribunal released its decision containing detailed reasons why a reprimand — the most lenient penalty available to the tribunal — would be “unhinged from the circumstances of the misconduct in this case.”
“In our opinion, a reprimand is so lenient, in the context of failures of honesty and integrity in communications to very large numbers of potential clients over a lengthy period of time, that a reasonable and informed person would be concerned that the regulation of legal professions does not take honesty and integrity seriously,” the panel wrote.
After the tribunal indicated last year that it wasn’t prepared to go along with the penalty, Diamond filed a motion to withdraw his admissions of professional misconduct.
“I was never aware and I did not contemplate that a potential penalty could exceed a reprimand here,” Diamond said last year. “Had I known that that was a possibility, I would never admitted to the misconduct, and would have had a hearing.”
There are no minimum or maximum penalties for lawyers found guilty of professional misconduct, and the range can include suspension or even disbarment. Past tribunals have not accepted joint submissions on costs and have increased proposed penalties.
Last year, Greenspan said that for a guilty plea to stand, “an accused must be aware of the criminal consequences as well as the legally relevant collateral consequences.” Since that wasn’t the case here, he argued, “we say there is no alternative but to abort this hearing at this stage and go back to square one.”
Greenspan declined to comment but confirmed arguments will be held on the withdrawal motion later this month.
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