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Law society accepts resignation of former PC party president Bill Smith

The Law Society of Alberta has accepted the resignation of former provincial Conservative party president and 2017 Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith. 

The law society had received, and dismissed, formal complaints about Smith as far back as 2017

BIll Smith effectively stopped practising law on March 7, 2018 after the law society appointed a custodian to take control of his practice. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The Law Society of Alberta has accepted the resignation of former provincial Conservative party president and 2017 Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith. 

The law society accepted Smith's resignation on June 12, but it took a month to release an eight-page hearing report in which the details of the complaints against Smith and the reasons for allowing his resignation rather than disbarment were omitted.

"The committee must consider whether the alleged conduct would likely result in disbarment if the matter were to proceed to a hearing and the citations proved," the hearing report stated. 

"The committee's view was that disbarment of Mr. Smith was an extremely unlikely outcome if (Smith) proceeded to a hearing."

The hearing report said Smith suffered from a "longstanding illness for which he continues to receive treatment."

After hearing evidence from Smith and a professional who treats him, the committee concluded his illness probably contributed to the poor judgment he exercised that led to the complaint. 

They also concluded public disclosure of the details of his illness "would likely negatively impact his condition and well-being." 

While the law society acknowledged the need for transparency when regulating lawyers, it also "has an interest in not subjecting a member involved in the conduct process to unnecessary prejudice.

"Mr. Smith's public profile perhaps increases the public's interest in the nature of the complaint and this committee's decision. In the committee's view, the well-being of Mr. Smith, that the committee is satisfied would be detrimentally impacted by greater transparency, outweighs any public interest that might be served by disclosure."

There was no mention in the hearing report of the effect, if any, that Smith's conduct had on his clients.

CBC News has reached out to Smith's lawyer for comment. 

Allegation of trust fund misappropriation

The law society had received, and dismissed, formal complaints about Smith as far back as 2017, and only pursued its own complaint after it conducted an audit of his firm's accounts in early 2018.

Court documents show Smith requested to be listed as inactive by the law society on Feb. 27, 2018 "due to health concerns."

Smith effectively stopped practising law on March 7, 2018 after the law society appointed a custodian to take control of his practice. 

In February 2019, CBC News reported the law society was investigating Smith for misappropriating funds held in trust by his law practice. 

A Calgary couple said Smith misappropriated $10,000 placed in trust related to the sale of their house.

They recently confirmed they were paid the money from the Alberta Lawyers Indemnity Association (ALIA). It is not known if the law society investigation proved the allegation of misappropriation of trust funds. 

The lawyer for a Calgary company also recently confirmed ALIA paid out a claim against Smith related to his failure to commence a lawsuit within a one-year deadline that related to a construction dispute involving more than $322,000.  

The company sued Smith after it learned he had failed to file the promised lawsuit. The lawyer declined to disclose how much his client received from ALIA.

Despite Smith's publicized legal and health problems, Health Minister Tyler Shandro in February appointed Smith as vice chair of the provincial Medical Appeals Board. 

Shandro however dropped Smith from the committee on July 8, nearly a month after the law society accepted his resignation, through an Order in Council that did not name Smith.

Shandro replaced Smith with Miles Weatherall, the former executive assistant to Medicine Hat federal Conservative MP Glen Motz. 

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@charlesrusnell

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