New Brunswick

'Apparent dishonesty' of N.B. lawyer to cost each lawyer up to $400

The "apparent dishonesty" of one New Brunswick lawyer is about to cost every practising lawyer in the province as much as $400 each.

Law Society's compensation fund will need to be replenished after anticipated payout of $732K

Marc Richard, executive director of the Law Society of New Brunswick, said he expects more information about the allegations against an unnamed lawyer will become public within the next couple of months. (CBC)

The "apparent dishonesty" of one New Brunswick lawyer is about to cost every practising lawyer in the province as much as $400 each.

That's because the Law Society of New Brunswick expects to ask its members to replenish its compensation fund, which will likely pay out  $732,000 in September, in connection with numerous complaints against one lawyer dating back to October 2016. 

The Law Society would not identify the lawyer by name, but the claims go back to the month Yassin Choukri, a former deputy justice minister, was suspended from practising law.. 

"Any claim against the compensation fund is the result of an allegation that the member … defrauded the clients, stole money from the clients, etc," said the Law Society's executive director Marc Richard.

Eventually, the action of the particular lawyer will end up before the discipline committee, Richard said.

"We expect to complete our investigation into that, probably very shortly and we expect that the notice of complaint, which would lay out the charges — what we call discipline charges against this member — will probably be public witihin a month or two."

Fredericton lawyer Yassin Choukri was deemed to have abandoned his law practice last fall and another lawyer was appointed custodian. (Charles LeBlanc/YouTube)
Affidavits filed in the Court of  Queen's Bench in support of Choukri's suspension contained a description of Choukri as a regular gambler who received complimentary rooms and meals at Casino Moncton.

The documents also indicated that Choukri's wife had borrowed tens of thousands of dollars on her own line of credit to cover deposits into a trust account for Choukri's clients. 

Around the same time, a $44,440.58 cheque written on the account was returned to clients by their bank as "item dishonoured."

In last month's newsletter, the Law Society advised its members: "Since October 2016, the Law Society has received a number of claims against the Compensation Fund as a result of the apparent dishonesty of a New Brunswick lawyer.  We anticipate receiving claims totaling $732,000."

Most costly claim in 2 decades

The newsletter also explained that because the fund is insured, the maximum deductible is $100,000 per claim, or a maximum of $500,000 per year.

That would eat up roughly half the fund's current balance of $1.1 million.

According to Richard, the fund hasn't seen a claim over $30,000 in the past 20 years.

Lawyers normally pay a $20 fee to cover administrative costs associated with maintaining the fund.

Richard said that will probably rise to $115 per year, over the next four years. 

Meanwhile, Fredericton police declined to say whether Choukri is under investigation.

They did confirm Choukri was reported missing on Sept. 29, 2016, and that he was no longer considered missing as of October 2016.

Spokesperson Heidi Cyr could not confirm whether Choukri is in Ontario.

"I don't know where he is," she said.