An Ontario Superior Court Judge has ruled that a Hamilton pastor must stop providing legal services out of an east end church, and issued a court order for him to stop practicing law immediately.
Superior Court Justice Robert Goldstein issued an injunction in January barring Gideon McGuire Augier “from practicing law or holding himself out to be a lawyer or paralegal.”
“McGuire Law Corporation will also be permanently restrained from holding out Mr. Augier as a person who may practice law or provide legal services,” wrote Judge Goldstein in the order.
The action was brought by the Law Society after it received two public complaints about his conduct, said lawyer Julia Wilkes who represented the Law Society in court. One of those complaints came from a former client, she said.
A subsequent investigation into the claims by the Law Society found that there was sufficient cause to argue that Augier's actions violated the Law Society Act which says that in order to practice law in Ontario a lawyer must be licenced.
CBC Hamilton attempted to contact Augier, but he could not be reached at the Abba Uno Center at 53 Gibson Ave. in Hamilton where he has been working as a pastor.
A post on abbauno.blogspot.ca says the church offers “multi-denominational worship services, inspirational speakers, addiction group meetings, addiction counseling, family counseling and mediation, as well as a variety of educational seminars.”
During the action, Augier did not present evidence that he had been educated as a lawyer or paralegal, says Wilkes.
Judge Goldstein found that the Hamilton-based pastor had been presenting himself as a lawyer and operating McGuire Law Corp. inside the Abba Uno Center, a community church and addiction recovery centre for local residents in the east end of Hamilton.
One three occasions, Augier acted in the capacity of a lawyer, according to the court — in an estate settlement, a divorce proceeding and in an immigration proceeding.
Augier, who represented himself in court when facing the accusations, denied the claims.
"He made two arguments. One, that he was acting in his role as a pastoral counsellor and two that he was acting as a legal mediator," says Wilkes.
Wilkes pointed out that a legal mediator is not governed by the Law Society Act.
Goldstein did not agree with either of the pastor’s assertions.
In his ruling, the judge declared that Augier's “…own correspondence and the McGuire Law Corp. web site contradict the assertion that he only assists congregants as a clergyman, and that his actions are directed towards the spiritual health of individual members of his congregation. The evidence is crystal clear that he has been practising law for profit.”
As a result of the ruling, Augier is forbidden from “practising law or holding himself out to be a lawyer or a paralegal."
In addition, he has been ordered to pay the Law Society of Upper Canada $15,000.
Should he violate the order, said Wilkes, he opens himself up to criminal charges.
Augier is appealing the decision.