A prominent New Brunswick lawyer, who could face up to 10 yeas in prison after being convicted of attempting to obstruct justice, says he is "truly sorry."
Rod Gillis told the Moncton provincial courtroom the matter has caused "unbearable stress and anxiety" for his wife of 45 years, his four children, his four grandchildren and step-grandchildren "who have a grandfather that's been convicted of a criminal offence.
"I will no longer be able to travel to see my grandchildren, as some live in England," he said on Thursday during his sentencing hearing, referring to having a criminal record.
"For the impact that it's had upon my coworkers, for that, I likewise am truly sorry," said Gillis, who was the managing partner at the Saint John-based firm Gilbert McGloan Gillis, but has now resigned.
'Throughout my professional life I believed in the concept of access to justice, as many individuals don’t have access to civil justice in our society.'—Rod Gillis, lawyer
He said his father started the firm shortly after the Second World War and continued to practise until the age of 90.
Gillis, 66, has worked at the firm since he graduated from university and had planned to continue to practise until the age of 75, "providing access to justice and encouraging others to do the same," he said.
"Throughout my professional life I believed in the concept of access to justice, as many individuals don’t have access to civil justice in our society," said Gillis, describing law as the "second love" of his life.
He also apologized to his clients for not being able to resolve all of his cases.
Gillis was suspended by the Law Society of New Brunswick on Wednesday. Suspended members are not permitted to practise law or handle trust funds.
"Now, some 42 years later, my wife and I look forward to an uncertain future," he said, noting they will have to sell some of their property since he is no longer practising.
Defence recommends conditional sentence
The obstruction case against Gillis dates back to 2009 when he 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.
Judge Irwin Lampert found Gillis guilty in January of attempting to obstruct justice by trying to stop witnesses from testifying against his client.
Gillis is appealing the conviction.
His defence lawyer argued Thursday he does not deserve to go to jail.
Gillis has already suffered enough, said Maria Henheffer.
After a successful legal career of more than 40 years, he has lost his partnership at the firm Gilbert McGloan Gillis, his employment, and his reputation, she said.
Gillis has disgraced himself and his family and cost at least two senior employees their jobs because they depended on the type of work he brought to the firm, said Henheffer.
He is responsible for all of that pain and suffering and is deeply sorry, she said.
Henheffer asked the judge to consider a conditional sentence in the range of one year to be served in the community, citing several mitigating factors.
Gillis has no prior criminal record, no prior disciplinary record and is not likely to ever reoffend, she said.
In addition, he is married, has a strong family life, strong references and no addition problems, Henheffer said.
Crown calls for prison term
Crown Prosecutor Peter Craig, however, argued a conditional sentence would not be adequate in this case.
He recommended a prison sentence of between 30 and 36 months.
Craig said Gillis' actions were premeditated and he knew the criminal and ethical implications.
The judge will render his sentence on June 20.
There is a lot of material to go through, he said.
Gillis' profile on the Gilbert McGloan Gillis website, which had listed him as a partner, member of the litigation team, and the firm's managing partner as of Wednesday, has since been removed.
His son, John Gillis, is now listed as partner.
Rod Gillis has the honorary title of Queen's Counsel (QC), used to recognize Canadian lawyers for their accomplishments and contributions to their profession and community.