A Nanaimo lawyer has been fined $7,500 for making “discourteous, uncivil, offensive” statements about a member of the judiciary.
In a decision from the Law Society of British Columbia, Brett Robert Vining, who practises family law, was found to have conducted himself inappropriately and committed professional misconduct.
The disciplinary hearing was related to a meeting Vining had with a client, referred to as TK in the decision, in the summer of 2021, in which he shared a rumour about the sexual activity of a member of the judiciary that took place when the member was in university.
The client told the society Vining used inappropriate and disrespectful language, and that they were uncomfortable with the conversation. Vining seemed “full of delight” when he relayed the story, carrying on at length, TK told the society.
Vining disputed the characterization of the conversation, saying the comment that he was full of delight was an exaggeration and the conversation lasted only a few minutes.
He admitted to making the statements, calling them “locker room talk,” and admitting they were offensive and ill-advised.
The society found Vining’s conduct was contrary to two rules in the Code of Professional Conduct for B.C. that require lawyers to foster respect for the courts and to communicate with clients in a civil and professional manner.
“The comments were gratuitous and uncalled for. There was no purpose to the comments. They were nothing more than salacious gossip about a member of the judiciary,” the decision said.
The panel took Vining’s previous conduct and the severity of his actions into account when determining his discipline.
“The Respondent’s misconduct was serious. He displayed a flagrant disrespect for the judiciary and brought the legal profession into disrepute,” the panel wrote.
In 1991, Vining was reviewed by the society for accusations rudeness and a lack of professional courtesy, and in 2021, he was reviewed for his handling of cash receipts.
Vining must pay a fine of $7,500 within 90 days of the Aug. 31 decision and $1,000 for costs.
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