B.C. lawyer Sumit Ahuja has been suspended for one month because he slept through his alarm, missed a flight to Kelowna and then lied to the court and his client by saying that the plane was overbooked.
Ahuja had been drinking alcohol while watching the Vancouver Canucks beat the L.A. Kings in a 3-2 squeaker of a game on April 4, 2016, and was home later than planned, according to a Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) hearing panel's decision.
Instead of owning up to his lapse, Ahuja on April 5, 2016, asked his assistant to send a memo to the court in Kelowna, advising that he had missed his plane because the flight was overbooked, the decision noted.
He was allowed to attend the Kelowna court hearing via telephone and, before he joined the proceedings, the judge noted to opposing council that he had been advised that Ahuja missed his flight due to overbooking
Ahuja did not immediately go to his office and, in several emails with partners of his firm, Ahuja apologized profusely for missing the plane but did not correct the explanation offered, the hearing panel noted.
It was not until the evening of April 6, 2016, that Ahuja admitted to partners at his firm what happened. The next night, he sent an email to several partners and confirmed that he had provided wrong answers to direct questions about whether he had lied to his client, according to the decision.
“You asked me point blank, and I didn’t tell you the entire truth,” Ahuja wrote in the email, the hearing panel noted.
In its decision on disciplinary action, the LSBC hearing panel considered similar past cases and Ahuja’s professional conduct record. At the hearing, Ahuja testified that when he applied for admission to the LSBC, he admitted he provided a false name to a police officer while driving under suspension. As a pre-admission requirement, he provided a letter to the LSBC’s credentials committee addressing the importance of truthfulness and candour for lawyers.
The court filing did not mention what firm Ahuja had been working for but said that he was working in the Langley office of a firm that had offices in both Vancouver and Langley.
Ahuja had been working for Lindsay Kenney, which has offices in Vancouver and Langley. Lindsay Kenney managing partner Frank Potts confirmed to Business in Vancouver that Ahuja is no longer working for the firm.
In addition to the one-month suspension, Ahuja must pay $3,500 in costs, plus disbursements.