Prominent Saint John criminal defence lawyer Rod Gillis was back before the Court of Appeal on Thursday in an ongoing bid to overturn his conviction for obstruction of justice.
Gillis was sentenced last June to 22 months in jail after being found guilty of attempting to stop a witness from testifying against one of his clients.
He was released the following day on a number of conditions, pending the outcome of his appeal, which began in February.
The question before the court is whether the trial judge misinterpreted a note Gillis wrote in 2009 to his client's former employer as an attempt to thwart justice, instead of seeing it as an offer to settle both a civil and a criminal court case.
Gillis was representing former Liberal MLA Frank Branch in a civil lawsuit against the North Shore Forest Products Marketing Board and on criminal charges of fraud and extortion.
The trial court heard Gillis wrote a note to Alain Landry, the manager of the North Shore Forest Products Marketing Board, offering to settle the lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.
The note said, "They're your witnesses. Just make sure they don't show up and the Crown will have no case."
Judge Irwin Lampert found Gillis guilty in January of attempting to obstruct justice by trying to stop witnesses from testifying against his client.
The Crown is responding to the appeal by noting how the trial judge said Gillis was "too often vague, qualified, non-committal and not forthright" when on the stand in his own defence.
The appeal is scheduled to continue on Friday.
If his appeal fails, Gillis will have to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence — almost 15 months — before being eligible for parole.
The veteran lawyer, who was the managing partner at the Saint John-based firm Gilbert McGloan Gillis, has been suspended by the Law Society of New Brunswick. Suspended members are not permitted to practise law or handle trust funds.