Former Kamloops lawyer 'misappropriated' client money while battling alcohol, cocaine addiction | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Former Kamloops lawyer 'misappropriated' client money while battling alcohol, cocaine addiction

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November 12, 2020 - 7:00 AM

A former Kamloops criminal defence lawyer has been found to have committed professional misconduct after he got clients to transfer him thousands of dollars while he was in the throes of an alcohol and cocaine addiction.

According to a Law Society of B.C. decision Oct. 15, Jeremy Daniel Knight "misappropriated some or all" of $6,825 in fees by getting clients to transfer money directly to him, instead of it being held in a trust with the law company he worked for.

In the Law Society decision on facts and determination, Knight admitted to the professional misconduct but asked the regulator not to find that he "misappropriated" clients funds, but rather that he mishandled the money which amounted to the "conversion of client funds to his personal use while in active addiction."

The Law Society dismissed Knight's request, saying the money was misappropriated regardless of the "causal relationship" between the money's mishandling and his addiction.

The decision says Knight struggled with alcohol, cocaine, and gambling addictions and is no longer a member of the Law Society as membership ceased for non-payment of fees Jan. 1, 2018.

The case dates back to 2016, shortly after Knight started working for Kamloops legal firm, Hebert Law.

The decision says in the spring of 2016, Knight voluntarily checked himself in a residential facility for alcohol and substance abuse, and upon completing rehab entered into a Relapse Prevention Agreement with the Law Society so he could return to practising.

The agreement included conditions that he had to attend self-help group meetings, take random alcohol and drug tests, and immediately stop practicing if he used alcohol or "any other mood-altering drug."

In October 2016 under this agreement, he started working for Hebert Law.

One month later Knight requested an incarcerated client's partner give him $480 cash "for legal fees" after she had already officially transferred $4,000 to the law firm. Several weeks later he asked her to email him $345 for a medical report. A few weeks later he asked the partner for $1,000 so he could post bail for his client. Days later he asked for a further $2,000 and one month later a further $2,000.

The decision says Knight wrote on his company timesheet that he'd spent less than three hours working on this case.

Separately, in June 2017 Knight told another client who he was representing in a criminal case he needed $1,000 as a retainer which he would hold in a trust. However, Knight gave the client his personal email address to send the money to.

The decision gives details of Knight's bank account which shows it was constantly overdrawn.

In June 2017 he was caught by his employer and a complaint was made to the Law Society and Knight was ordered to stop practicing law. He then admitted himself to a residential treatment centre.

Ultimately, the Law Society concluded Knight "misappropriated" $6,825 and "used some or all of this money for purposes not authorized" by his clients.

"In our view, (Knight's) misappropriation of retainer funds and his breach of the various provisions... constitute a marked departure from what the Law Society expects of lawyers and thus amounts to professional misconduct," reads the decision.

The Law Society will decide what disciplinary action to take against Knight at a future date.

— This story was corrected 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 to add that Jeremy Knight misappropriated "some or all" of $6,825 of clients money. The Law Society of B.C. decision was issued Oct. 15, not Oct. 25 as originally reported.

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