SCC decision a victory for ‘zealous advocates’


Deborah Howden Head ShotA recent Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling clarifies the boundary between what constitutes incivility in a courtroom and strong legal advocacy, Toronto employment lawyer Deborah Howden tells

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) launched a proceeding against Toronto securities lawyer Joseph Groia 2007 for professional misconduct in court while successfully defending a client in a lengthy and complex fraud trial. The lawyer was cited by the law society for attacking Ontario Security Commission prosecutors both professionally and personally.

The lawyer received a $200,000 fine, a one-month suspension and ordered to pay about $2 million in legal fees in 2012.

He challenged the decision but it was upheld by the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal until the Supreme Court of Canada overruled the LSO in a 6-3 judgment this year. The majority found that while the LSO retains the ability to determine whether courtroom behaviour can amount to professional misconduct, lawyers are also bound to fearlessly advocate for their clients, Howden says.

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