A Saskatchewan lawyer who submitted a piece of toilet paper as proof of a contract with his client has been sharply rebuked by the province's law society.
In a decision recently published to an online legal database, Ron Cherkewich, from Prince Albert, Sask., has been ordered to pay a fine and investigative costs totaling $10,500 for the ill-advised stunt, which the law society said amounted to conduct unbecoming a lawyer.
'The toilet paper agreement brought the profession and the administration of justice into disrepute.' - Law Society of Saskatchewan decision
According to the decision, Cherkewich's behaviour — described as "rude and provocative" — took place in 2011 while he was representing a client who had filed a claim under Canada's Indian Residential Schools Settlement agreement.
Asked to provide retainer agreement
The client was appearing before an adjudicator seeking compensation and the adjudicator asked Cherkewich for a copy of the retainer agreement with his client. A retainer agreement is essentially a contract outlining how a lawyer is to be paid.
But Cherkewich bristled at the request, telling the adjudicator he "did not do" such agreements. When the adjudicator pressed the issue, Cherkewich — according to the law society — became "angry and irate" and left the hearing room with his client.
He then returned with a very different demeanour — described as "kind of smug and happy."
Cherkewich then handed the adjudicator a piece of toilet paper with a handwritten retainer agreement, signed by him and his client.
The adjudicator was deeply offended, according to the law society.
"It was very difficult for her to stay composed throughout the hearing as she felt disrespected and humiliated," the society's decision noted.
Lawyer says it was just a 'dumb joke'
The society said Cherkewich, who has been a practising lawyer for 44 years, claimed he used the toilet paper as a "dumb joke" in an effort to relieve tension.
In the end, the law society concluded Cherkewich really had one intention in using toilet paper to prepare a legal document and that was to be disrespectful to the adjudicator.
"Mr. Cherkewich's conduct with the toilet paper agreement brought the profession and the administration of justice into disrepute," the decision said.
The penalty imposed was a reprimand, a $500 fine and an order to pay costs of $10,000 to the law society.