Lawyer fined for misleading law society

Andrew Robinson
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Panel dismisses complaint alleging Baker pushed client to plead guilty

A St. John’s lawyer has been reprimanded and fined for misleading a Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador panel dealing with a complaint about her professional conduct.

Averill Baker. — Telegram file photo

A former client of Averill Baker initially filed a complaint alleging he did not receive proper legal representation and involuntarily pleaded guilty to a break-and-enter charge. A Court of Appeal decision later set aside that guilty plea.

The panel dismissed that allegation, noting the complainant failed to testify and that no reason was given for his failure to attend a scheduled hearing.

It also noted there were concerns about the complainant’s credibility in light of a lengthy criminal record with convictions for several breaches of recognizance.

However, the panel did determine Baker’s conduct with respect to the hearing itself warranted discipline.

In a written response to the complainant’s allegations, Baker indicated the Crown had agreed to withdraw several charges against the complainant as part of a plea agreement.

However, a Crown attorney who testified before the panel said those charges were withdrawn due to either lack of evidence or no reasonable prospect for conviction.

The panel’s decision — published on the Canadian Legal Information Institute website — noted correspondence between the Crown attorney and Baker indicated as well that was so.

“As such, the Panel finds that (Baker) knew that these charges were not being withdrawn as part of the plea agreement,” the panel said in it’s decision.

Counsel for Baker argued it was simply a matter of “unintentional oversight” on her part. The panel did not agree that was the case.

“The Respondent had in her possession prior to preparing the Response the information she would need to properly and accurately respond to this Complaint. Yet she chose to highlight by bolding and/or underlining inaccurate information that certain charges were withdrawn as a result of her advocacy on behalf of (her client) when the fact was that these charges were being withdrawn in any event by the Crown due to lack of evidence.”

In addition to a reprimand, Baker must pay a $3,500 fine and half of the Law Society’s costs incurred for conducting its investigation and holding the hearing.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Canadian Legal Information Institute

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Recent comments

  • ray
    March 26, 2014 - 06:32

    Its the Crowns word against hers... Of course the Law Society is going to side with the Crown. This is a non story.

  • Dee
    March 25, 2014 - 22:37

    I don't she is very reliable anyway isn't this the same lawyer a few years ago who left her clients files in her car when it was broken into and her briefcase was stolen with the files in it, something very personal you don't just leave around,wise up Miss Baker or take a file clerk job if you can handle that.

  • Glenn Stockley
    March 25, 2014 - 18:02

    the telegram definitely has an agenda with regard to what it chooses to print and not print when it comes to the NL justice?system?

  • Marshall Art
    March 25, 2014 - 15:43

    Mawmouth. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    March 25, 2014 - 15:31

    Most lawyers in St John's have integrity , and fight for the freedom of their client should they plaed not guilty. Lawyers today are overworked, and become far too complacent with the "plea bargan" process , and have forgot how to run a good old fashion trial. Just like a pilot who's forgot how to really fly his airplane due to technology taking over everything they do. All an accused can do is to hope and pray that their lawyer has there best interest at heart as they agreed to do when they took the bar exam and became a bonafide lawyer. I do feel there is a place in our courts for the 'plea' bargain, but lawyers have to stay in tune with how to properly cross examine, challenge evidence, and subpoenae vital witnesses. It is something a good lawyer can be proud of, and carry with them their whole life with every case they win. regardlass of the guilt or innocence of their client. Unfortunately this process is jamming up the courts when guilty scumbags use the system against Regina . The fact still remaines --we can not make up the rules as we go along, in order to be fair to those who are genuinely innocent--and there are lots. Police and the Crown want convictions--it's the job of the lawyers to make absolutely certain that only the guilty get convicted without plea deals to reduce 'dead time' which is their ultimate goal (the crown and police) . There is nothing sadder than an innocent individual pleading guilty to a charge simply to get out of jail sooner, and it happens everyday in St John's, and every other city in Canada.. Good honest lawyers are all we have to prevent this from happening. The word honest , and lawyer should rarely be used in the same sentence, but they do exist--like the rare 'Big Foot'' and other seldom seen creatures.

  • Goulds
    March 25, 2014 - 14:20

    With all the wrong doings of lawyers these days this is what the Law Society decides to pursue. An Oversight. My lord, the Law Society must really have nothing to do with their time. To think this made the news. Shame!

    • Marshall Art
      March 25, 2014 - 18:19

      Hey, Goulds, you either didn't read the article closely or you read it and didn't understand it. Ms. Baker's lawyer, not the Law Society, said it was a matter of an 'unintentional oversight'. The Law Society panel did not agree with Ms. Baker's lawyer and that's why she was reprimanded, fined $3,500 and has to pay half the Law Societys' costs. It would be a shame if this hadn't made the news.

  • Goulds
    March 25, 2014 - 14:16

    With all the wrong doings of lawyers these days this is what the Law Society decides to pursue. An Oversight. My lord, the Law Society must really have nothing to do with their time. To think this made the news. Shame!

  • Corporate Psycho
    March 25, 2014 - 11:01

    In trouble again. The reprimands must be piling up.