A Law Society of Upper Canada appeal panel has reduced lawyer Joe Groia’s suspension, from two months, to one month. The panel noted faults with a hearing panel decision that found Groia guilty of incivility last year.
An 88-page decision released Nov. 28 agreed that Groia’s conduct during his defence of a geologist was out of line and constituted professional misconduct. The appeal panel took issue, however, with how the hearing panel determined the appropriate penalty.
“… In our view, the penalty analysis by the hearing panel contains errors of principle as well as conclusions tainted by its misapplication of the abuse of process doctrine,” appeal panel chair Linda Rothstein wrote.
During a judicial review of the trial, a judge had chastised Groia for repeatedly leveling accusations at the prosecution. The hearing panel decided that the judge’s remarks count as a finding of professional misconduct. The appeal panel said this was a mistake.
At the misconduct hearing, the Law Society had sought a suspension of two to four months. Groia asked for a reprimand.
“In our view, taking into account all the relevant factors, this is not a reprimand case,” the appeal panel found. “Rather, we conclude that a one-month suspension is justified and appropriate in light of the relevant factors.”
The appeal panel also disagreed that Groia’s lack of remorse was an aggravating factor in the penalty analysis, finding that his “zealous” defence before the hearing panel was appropriate.
The panel has asked for written submissions from the parties on whether the hearing panel’s errors justify reducing the $250,000 cost award that had been ordered against Groia.