Lyle Howe suspended from Halifax law practice

On Saturday a jury found the prominent Halifax lawyer guilty of sexually assaulting a woman, but not guilty of administering a stupefying drug.

N.S. Barristers’ Society held an emergency meeting Monday in response to Howe's conviction

Lyle Howe pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and administering a stupefying drug. (CBC)

Halifax lawyer Lyle Howe has been suspended from practising law.

On Saturday a jury found Howe guilty of sexually assaulting a woman, but not guilty of administering a stupefying drug.

Darrell Pink, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, said a decision was made Monday afternoon by the complaints investigation committee of the society.

The committee held an emergency meeting Monday in response to Howe's sexual assault conviction.

"In this case, although we were aware of the charges, the nature of the charges made it absolutely imperative that Mr. Howe's fair trial rights be preserved," said Pink. "And therefore, as you know, we deferred doing anything relating to these charges until the criminal process had run its course."

Pink said the committee had to determine if there was a public interest that required a suspension.

"Their conclusion was that, based on the serious nature of the criminal charges, that a suspension, an immediate suspension, is the appropriate thing to do."

Clients left without representation

The society has appointed a receiver, John Rafferty of Burchell MacDougall in Truro, to manage Howe's law practice in the short term.

Pink said they are not shutting down the practice. Rafferty is working with Laura McCarthy, Howe's wife and an associate in her husband's firm, to contact all of his clients.

McCarthy stood by her husband throughout the trial. She is also the only other lawyer in his law firm.

She will remain an employee of the firm.

"We have reason to believe that she will be cooperative with us.  We've had communication with her already and we'll work to make sure that she lands on her feet," said Pink.

The society has also been in touch with the provincial court to inform them of the situation and to identify which clients need the most immediate help.

Rafferty does not practise criminal law, so a team of lawyers will work with him on dealing with Howe's firm.

The society will now investigate if Howe should be disbarred.  

The charges were laid after an incident on March 20, 2011, involving a 19-year-old woman. She accused Howe of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

During the trial, Howe took the stand in his own defence. He argued the woman agreed to have sex. The jury did not believe him. 

That investigation will likely not proceed until the criminal matter is completed. Howe is to be sentenced July 30.

Defence lawyer Mike Taylor said on Saturday there’s “reasonable chance” Howe will appeal.

He said his client’s career is “basically destroyed.”