New Brunswick

Lawyer withdraws secrecy bid on complaint

A lawyer in New Brunswick has given up his bid to keep disciplinary proceedings against him secret.

O'Toole ordered to pay media for legal costs

A lawyer in New Brunswick has given up his bid to keep disciplinary proceedings against him secret.

A complaint against Shawn O’Toole was sent to the Law Society of New Brunswick’s disciplinary committee which normally posts notices of those hearings on its website.

A client accused O'Toole of taking her name off a mortgage document and she didn't agree to it. She claims he signed a document as a witness when she wasn't there.

O'Toole had asked the court to block a public notice of the Law Society's hearing into his case, but withdrew that request Friday since the arguments at the Fredericton courthouse were public, essentially bringing more attention to the case. 

The Law Society of New Brunswick, the profession's governing body, opened its disciplinary proceedings to the public and media in 2008 after a court ruling said it was unconstitutional to conduct them in private.

O’Toole’s application was the first legal challenge in New Brunswick against that principle.

"Without having a notice of complaint that lays out the charges you really don't know what the hearing would be about," said Marc Richard, executive director of the Law Society.

The CBC and Brunswick News intervened and argued against the publication ban.

Justice Hugh McLellan ordered O’Toole to pay $1,000 as a contribution towards the media’s legal costs because the application was "without legal merit."

"In my view, a public hearing is of little value if you don't get to know when the hearing is, and who and what it concerns. So it emphasizes, in my view, that that's part of the notion of a public hearing," said David Coles, the lawyer representing the two media outlets.

Coles said awarding the media money will be noticed by other lawyers who might try to move their disciplinary hearings behind closed doors.

O'Toole's bid to stop the disciplinary procedure altogether will be heard Oct. 12.