Nova Scotia

Disbarred lawyer Duane Rhyno files lawsuit amid criminal charges

Duane Rhyno is facing two criminal harassment charges and has filed a lawsuit against a slew of people alleging fraud.

Rhyno was charged with 2 counts of criminal harassment after police received a complaint last month

Duane Rhyno, seen in this file photo while still practising law, says he plans to plead not guilty to the charges. (CBC)

A recently disbarred Halifax-area lawyer is now facing criminal harassment charges, and has filed a lawsuit against a slew of people alleging fraud.

Duane Rhyno was disbarred in April by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society after being found guilty of professional misconduct related to a series of questionable real-estate transactions.

Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. Alicia Joseph said Rhyno was arrested on April 27 after investigators received a report that a man had been making unwanted contact to a number of individuals over the past year.

The former lawyer from Fall River was charged with two counts of criminal harassment.

Days after his arrest, Rhyno filed a statement of claim with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court alleging wrongdoing against 12 defendants.

The claim alleges several defendants were involved in the fraudulent conveyance of properties.

Rhyno intends to plead not guilty

In an interview Thursday with CBC News, Rhyno claimed one defendant "ran off with the assets of the company" he was previously involved in.

Rhyno said he believes the criminal charges against him were an attempt by one of the defendants to prevent him from advancing the lawsuit.

"It would be my position that if all it takes to avoid a lawsuit is to allege criminal harassment against somebody, well then the civil justice system would never advance," he said.

Rhyno said he intends to plead not guilty to the charges. He's scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on June 6.

Seeking damages

The claim also names Victoria Rees, director of professional responsibility at the barristers' society, as a defendant.

"[Rees] was notified shortly after all the properties… were conveyed how they were conveyed fraudulently and contrary to the ruling of the bar society which disbarred the plaintiff [Rhyno] for similar offences but would not investigate thereby further aiding the fraudulent conversion of the properties."

None of the allegations has been proven in court, and a defence has not yet been filed.

Barristers' society executive director Tilly Pillay declined to comment Thursday.

Rhyno is seeking punitive and general damages.

Discipline panel findings

In January, a discipline panel found Rhyno was involved in personal mortgage applications that contained "numerous misrepresentations," and had misled the society about a series of details, including the filing of his tax returns.

Rhyno won't be eligible to reapply to practice law for five years. The society, which regulates the legal profession in the province, also ordered Rhyno to pay costs of $125,000.

Rhyno said he plans to appeal the barristers' society decision.

Previous infractions

It's not the first time Rhyno was reprimanded. He entered into a settlement agreement in 2008 after the society discovered problems with real-estate transactions. It cited this earlier case in criticizing Rhyno's handling of the latest allegations against him.

Rhyno was also charged with human trafficking and suspended from the practice of law in 2014. He was accused of selling the sexual services of a woman from a hotel in the Annapolis Valley.

The trafficking charges were eventually withdrawn, but Rhyno pleaded guilty to two breach charges because he violated a court order and had contact with his alleged victim while the case was making its way through the courts.