Kamloops lawyer wins right to have indigenous representation on disciplinary hearing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops lawyer wins right to have indigenous representation on disciplinary hearing

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November 21, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops lawyer accused of practicing in an area of law he was suspended from more than 20 years ago won the right to have a native elder appear on a panel to hear a disciplinary proceeding.

George Coutlee is a Kamloops based lawyer and according to citation documents issued by the Law Society of B.C. on Nov. 16, Coutlee made an application to the Law Society of B.C. to include an Indigenous lawyer or elder to “perhaps more fairly” weigh his case.

Coutlee is an Indigenous lawyer and in January 13, 1997, Coutlee was suspended from practicing an all areas of the law except for the field of criminal law and personal injury claims, according to Law of Society of B.C. documents.

The allegations against Coutlee became known to the Law Society of B.C. when Coutlee allegedly provided legal services to a client identified as initials  “F.E.” in the document and her ex-spouse “R.E.” for a family law dispute in the United States more than a decade ago.

“F.E. and R.E. were parties to a family law proceeding in Oregon. They reached a property settlement agreement that included terms concerning the division of property, some of which was located in British Columbia,” the documents read.

In March 2006, Coutlee failed to disclose in an affidavit the details of the legal services he provided in the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon in regards to his client’s case.

The Law Society of B.C. became aware of Coutlee’s alleged violation when his client FE —who is now deceased—provided the Law Society of B.C. an “exonerating statement” that the legal services Coutlee provided for her were within his areas of practice of personal injury and criminal law.

Coutlee also submitted a further statement from R.E., which he says established no basis for the allegations against him. He also argues that based on the statements from his former clients, that staff investigating should have concluded that there was no support for the allegations.

Coutlee says in his mind the only explanation for a citation being authorized against him is that the investigation must have been clouded by him being Indigenous.

“None of the investigators are Native Indian. Maybe this is another racist smearing of an Indian,” Coutlee says in the document.

Coutlee's application was brought forward one day before his hearing was set to begin.

"The Law Society says that (Coutlee) knew that a written application should be made without delay, but that he failed to do so and failed to provide any reason for his delay," the documents read.

However, despite the delay in receiving Coutlee's application for an adjournment at a late date, the Law Society of B.C. has granted Coutlee's application of postponing his hearing until a panel involving an Indigenous person can be arranged.

"The absence of an Indigenous member on the panel raises an apprehension of institutional bias in the circumstances of this case. A failure to reconstitute the Panel with an Indigenous member, in our view, would be inconsistent with the values and objectives of the Law Society made evident in its commitment to its Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee Report," the document says.

Coutlee's application has been granted and has been referred to the Chair of the Law Society Tribunal, with a recommendation that the hearing panel be reconstituted to include an Indigenous person.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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