Delay in Professional Disciplinary Cases

Abrametz v Law Society of Saskatchewan is an important new decision from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dealing with the impact of delay in professional disciplinary cases.

The charges against a lawyer under discipline, Peter Abrametz, were stayed by the Court of Appeal because of the time it took to investigate and prosecute the case. The investigation in Abrametz started in 2012 and ended with a hearing in 2018. The member was under an interim suspension since 2013.

Some of the important takeaways from Abrametz include:

  1. The courts will look at the delay both in the investigation and prosecution of the charges. This is different than criminal cases, where the courts typically only look at the prosecution length;
  2. To get a stay of charges, there must be “undue delay”. The Court looked at the Law Society’s reasons for delay and attempted to determine which delays were attributable to the regulator, as opposed to the member;
  3. The Law Society was determined to be responsible for 32 ½ months of delay, which was found to be unreasonable;
  4. In order for charges to be stayed, the member had to establish that there was harm or disadvantage suffered that was serious enough that to offend the public’s sense of decency and fairness. The interim suspension against Mr. Abrametz was a significant consideration in relation to this factor.

Abrametz is an extension of the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Jordan (2016), 1 S.C.R. 631 dealing with delay in criminal proceedings.

The impact of Abrametz is that it is now more important than ever that regulators investigate and prosecute cases swiftly. To the extent that delays are experienced, regulators should keep careful records as to why the delays are occurring and to who those delays are attributable. If they are delays caused by the member, those delays may not be counted against the regulator in determining whether there was “undue delay”.

Sean Sinclair of Robertson Stromberg LLP would be pleased to answer any questions or concerns that you have in relation to the Abrametz decision or any other regulatory issues. Sean can be reached at s.sinclair@rslaw.com or 306-933-1367.

Share This
Articles & Research Delay in Professional Disciplinary Cases