Defence lawyer Lyle Howe accused of trying to extort witness
Halifax defence lawyer faces charges of professional misconduct and professional incompetence
More details of complaints against Halifax defence lawyer Lyle Howe emerged Monday at his Nova Scotia Barristers' Society disciplinary hearing, including allegations he tried to extort a witness.
Howe is facing seven complaints of professional misconduct and professional incompetence. He has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, he could be disbarred.
In the first day of testimony following the Christmas break, Dartmouth Crown prosecutor Michelle James told the hearing about her dealings with Howe on a threats case.
She said Howe asked to meet with a witness just before the trial was to begin. James said in that meeting, Howe told the witness he would be cross-examining her on allegations she and her husband plotted to kidnap the accused.
James said Howe also told the witness that if she agreed to let his client enter a peace bond, then the client would not launch a private prosecution against the woman.
James told the disciplinary hearing that at that point she "lost it" and accused Howe of trying to extort the witness. The lawyer said she reported Howe's behaviour to the barristers' society.
James had also complained to the society about Howe being double-booked and unavailable for court appearances. But under cross-examination by Howe, James admitted double-booking was a common problem and it had even happened to her.
Howe told the hearing he feels that in complaining about his actions, James was holding him to a higher standard than she held other lawyers and it was part of a campaign against him.
The hearing was briefly disrupted by outburts from Howe supporters who packed the public gallery. They accused the disciplinary panel of racial bias and questioned why the only African Nova Scotian people involved in the case were Howe and his defence team.
Hearing chair Ron MacDonald warned against outbursts and told them if they continued, they'd be asked to leave.
During a break, one man confronted MacDonald as he was leaving the hearing room. MacDonald threatened to call police. After a brief meeting outside the room, the man left.
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Howe himself raised the race issue, saying his race was a consideration in the case. He accused barristers' society lawyer Victoria Rees of having a racial bias during the investigation phase of his case.
Rees responded in her testimony Monday morning that she and other staff at the society have had cultural competency training.
The case also includes complaints from three Nova Scotia judges and the province's public prosecution service.
The provincial court judges, Alanna Murphy, Frank Hoskins and Timothy Gabriel, contacted the society and expressed frustration with Howe's scheduling conflicts.
The hearing is expected to run most of this week. Additional days have been set aside in February, if necessary.
Howe was convicted of sex assault in May 2014 but the conviction was overturned on appeal.