The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society has recommended that Halifax lawyer Lyle Howe be disbarred and wants him to pay at least $450,000 in costs for the longest disciplinary hearing it has ever conducted.

The recommendation comes after a hearing panel of the society issued a decision on July 17 finding Howe guilty of professional misconduct and professional incompetence.

"Based on the nature and number of their findings, disbarment is the appropriate sanction," Victoria Rees, the barristers society acting executive director, said Tuesday.

The chair of the hearing panel, Ron MacDonald, has 30 business days to reach a decision on what sanctions Howe will face.

'I'm not a thief'

The society accused Howe of professional incompetence and professional misconduct. Howe, who is black, countered by saying he was a victim of discrimination based on race. 

On Tuesday, Howe took exception to his misconduct being placed in the same ballpark as lawyers who steal money from clients.

"I'm not a thief, I'm not driven to take advantage of people," he said. "If anything, in the circumstances where I was dishonest, I was either defending myself recklessly or I was trying to get a better result for a client."

Savings exhausted

The society said it is seeking between $450,000 and $650,000, which Rees said represents between 40 and 50 per cent of the total costs for the hearing.

At 60 days and 10,000 pages of transcripts, Howe's disciplinary hearing was the longest in the society's history. Rees said the society is offering a "10-year payment plan." 

On Tuesday, Howe said he will not be able to pay and called the sum "frankly ridiculous."

"They're never going to get $650,000 and that's not because I'm not going to try, it's just not going to happen unless I go into a reckless deal trying to make money as quick as possible," he said.

Panel offering payment plan

Howe said and his wife Laura McCarthy, also a lawyer who is representing him at the hearing, used to have substantial savings. But those savings have been exhausted due to defending Howe.

"I don't think it will surprise the panel that I don't have $100,000 sitting in a bank account after what I've gone through," Howe said. "I don't have $10,000 that I can access in a savings account right now."

Howe still faces three new charges, which will be at the centre of a new hearing.