Veteran defence lawyer chastised

The Nova Scotia Barristers Society is reviewing a scathing court decision about incompetence by a veteran and well-known defence lawyer, CBC News has learned.

The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society is reviewing a scathing court decision about incompetence by a well-known, veteran defence lawyer, CBC News has learned.

Lance Scaravelli's botched handling of a case resulted in a new trial being ordered for a teacher accused of sexually touching a student.

In June, the longtime defence lawyer was forced to take the stand in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to defend his work in representing Antoine Fraser.

The teacher, a black man, was accused of a sex crime involving a student — a white teenaged girl.

In a 35-page decision, the justices pointed out that things went off the rails with the case almost from the beginning.

The jury selected was all-white.

Scaravelli did not question them about their views on race and whether they might discriminate against his client.

Fraser told Scaravelli he was unhappy that the jury was all-white. Scaravelli's response was that there was nothing that could be done about it. He then tried to reassure his client, saying he had quote "gotten lots of black guys off before with all white juries."

Problems with Scaravelli's strategy snowballed. Witnesses that should have been called weren't and new evidence about an alleged sexual encounter wasn't challenged.

The jury ended up finding Fraser guilty. The judge sentenced him to nine months in jail.

Fraser launched an appeal of the guilty verdict and won.

In its decision, the appeals court slammed the lawyer's work as incompetent.

"Mr. Fraser did not receive a fair trial ... the legal representation fell far short of the mark ... Fraser's constitutional right to make a full answer and defence was compromised," the decision reads.

Justice Jamie Saunders commented on Scaravelli's attitude, saying he was "troubled that at times his responses under questioning at the appeal appeared to reflect disdain for the process."

Anytime a lawyer is chastised by a court, it's noticed by the Nova Scotia Barrister's Society.

"In a case like the matter involving Mr. Scaravelli, the society looks at it and determines what is the appropriate role for it to play. I'm not able to tell you exactly what that is in this case because whatever we do at this point is confidential, but we certainly would always look at it quite seriously," said Darrel Pink, the society's executive director.

Pink will not say whether the society is investigating Scaravelli beyond the Court of Appeal ruling.

The justices said their decision to order a new trial for Fraser is not a statement about whether he is innocent or guilty.

No date has been set for the new trial.