Discipline Decision – 2019
Below is a summary of a decision arising from an Adjudication Tribunal of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador v. Johnathan McDonald
The Respondent, Johnathan McDonald, plead guilty to Complaints alleging that between 2016 and 2017, he:
- ) prepared false documents and on each one forged a legal assistant’s signature and applied her Commissioner for Oaths stamp;
- ) failed to pay monies received in trust for clients into a designated trust account forthwith;
- ) used client trust funds for his own purposes without complying with the requirements of the Code of Professional Conduct for borrowing money from clients or the appropriation of trust funds on account of fees;
- ) failed to care for clients’ property, specifically money, as a careful and prudent owner would when dealing with money;
- ) copied solicitor-client information and confidential office information from the computer system of a law firm to a USB drive, without the knowledge and authorization of the law firm;
- ) removed the USB drive from the offices of the law firm, without the knowledge and authorization of the law firm;
- ) failed to protect the solicitor-client information and confidential office information; and
- ) prepared a false receipt of payment and forged a legal assistant’s signature on the receipt.
At all times relevant to the Complaint, the Respondent was practicing at law firms in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The sanction ordered by the Adjudication Tribunal included that:
- ) the Respondent shall be permitted to surrender his licence to practise law, within a period of thirty (30) days from the date of the Adjudication Tribunal’s decision;
- ) the Respondent shall undertake not to apply for readmission to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador for a period of five (5) years from the date of his suspension: 12 May 2017, and which undertaking shall be filed with the Law Society within thirty (30) days of the Adjudication Tribunal’s decision;
- ) in the event that the Respondent fails to surrender his licence or fails to file the undertaking within the specified time periods, the Respondent shall be immediately disbarred;
- ) the Respondent shall pay a fine of $5,000, which fine is due to be paid in accordance with a payment plan (the “Payment Plan”) as agreed by the parties, particulars of which are the Respondent shall pay to the Law Society instalments of $250 on the last day of every month, beginning on the 31st day of January, 2020, and continuing until both the fine and the costs (described in subparagraph (e) below) have been fully paid. The instalments shall be first attributed to the costs (described in subparagraph (e)) until it is fully paid and then attributed to the fine;
- ) the Respondent shall pay $10,000 representing a portion of the costs of these proceedings, which costs shall be paid in accordance with the Payment Plan as agreed by the parties, particulars of which are set out in (d) above;
- ) notwithstanding that the fine and costs are scheduled to be fully paid as indicated in the Payment Plan, payment of the fine or the costs shall not be a condition on the Respondent’s ability to reapply for a licence; and
- ) the Adjudication Tribunal’s decision is to be published in accordance with section 51 of the Act, the Law Society rule 9.28 and the Law Society’s Publication Policy.