June 02, 2016 - 4:30 PM
"IT DOES NOT MATTER IF A LAWYER IS PROVOKED."
KELOWNA – A Kelowna lawyer who was suspended and fined $10,000 for a heated exchange with a police officer in the Kelowna courthouse in 2011 has had his appeal denied.
On March 9, 2011, Martin Drew Johnson was representing a man accused of assaulting his wife. According to a Law Society of B.C. hearing panel on facts and determination, Johnson asked an RCMP member to escort the wife to the family home to retrieve some of her belongings.
When the officer refused the two got into a heated argument in the hallway of the Kelowna courthouse on Water Street.
Johnson admits saying "fuck you" to the officer but only after he was provoked.
“Don’t for a minute think I don’t know who you are and what you’re all about," the officer allegedly said. More heated words were exchanged and the pair came nose to nose.
Johnson was arrested for assault. He was not charged with assault but the Law Society suspended him for one month after ruling it is never acceptable for a lawyer to use those words in a courthouse.
Six of the seven panelists on the review board upheld the suspension, saying there are no circumstances where it is acceptable for a lawyer to use vulgar language in anger with a witness, another lawyer or with any member of the public.
“It does not matter if a lawyer is provoked, or whether the lawyer has reached a breaking point or if litigation is sometimes hostile, aggressive and fierce. Saying “fuck you” to a witness, another lawyer, or a member of the public in a courthouse in an angry, insulting, hostile or belligerent manner, as the Respondent did, is totally indefensible, is always a marked departure from the standard of conduct that the Law Society expects of lawyers and, therefore, always constitutes professional misconduct.”
Only one of the panelists felt Johnson’s choice of words were understandable, given the highly stressful nature of the job.
“I find that the Respondent’s single, bald utterance of “fuck you” was provoked by Officer B’s aggressive and offensive behaviour and did not extend beyond mere rudeness or discourtesy under the circumstances,” Jamie MacLaren said. “The Respondent uttered the profane but commonplace words without ulterior motive, in a momentary act of anger, and in a private conversation in a quiet area of the courthouse. There is no evidence of bystanders overhearing the utterance.”
This is Johnson’s second one-month suspension for professional conduct since 2001.
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