The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in an 8-1 decision that a lengthy investigation into misconduct charges against a Saskatchewan lawyer did not amount to an abuse of process.
The case began in 2012, when the Law Society of Saskatchewan audited Prince Albert lawyer Peter V. Abrametz, eventually finding him guilty in 2018 of professional misconduct.
The society found that Abrametz had issued high-interest loans to vulnerable clients. It also found he had been involved in preparing misleading invoices and accounting records in an attempt to hide the checks he had issued to his clients.
Abrametz was disbarred for two years by the law society, although that decision was later stayed.
The lawyer argued that the process had been dragged on for too long, and appealed the decision.
In 2020, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal sided with Abrametz, ruling that the process had taken too long and amounted to an abuse of process.
However, the Supreme Court has overturned that decision, pointing out the law society tribunal had said that the case was very complex, leading to a long investigation.
The ‘primary role’ of the hearing committee was ‘to weigh and assess voluminous quantities of evidence. The Court of Appeal departed from its proper role when it substituted its own findings of fact, notably on the scale and the complexity of the investigation.– Supreme Court of Canada
As well, the law society argued, Abrametz was partially to blame for the long investigation, noting more than a year’s worth of delay was due to his or his lawyer’s unavailability.
The Supreme Court wrote that the Appeal Court had overstepped its bounds and should have followed the law society tribunal’s lead.
“The ‘primary role‘ of the hearing committee was ‘to weigh and assess voluminous quantities of evidence,’ the