The prominent Bay Street lawyer has also been suspended for two months after a Law Society panel found his courtroom style uncivil.
A Law Society of Upper Canada disciplinary panel has assessed costs of $247,000 and imposed a two-month suspension on a prominent Toronto lawyer for his “uncivil” courtroom behaviour.
In successfully defending Bre-X Minerals geologist John Felderhof against insider trading charges 12 years ago, Joe Groia “engaged in persistent unsubstantiated allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and communicated with the prosecution in a manner that was intended to be provocative,” the panel said in a decision released Friday.
The three-person panel ordered the nationally known Bay Street lawyer to pay the Law Society’s costs in prosecuting him, involving 1,171 billable hours which, added to disbursements, total $246,961.
Groia, 57, said he will continue to appeal the panel’s original finding of professional misconduct and in the meantime will seek a stay of the penalty.
“Now they want to take away my licence for two months because they believe I am likely to ‘re-offend’ the rules of civility and I am a danger to the profession,” he said.
“I will continue to fight this case for as long and as hard as I possibly can, even with the ruinous effect it has had on my family, my firm and myself.”
Groia always maintained he was merely vigorously defending his client against Ontario Securities Commission charges in 2000 and 2001, long before the “civility movement” took hold in the legal profession.
Any penalties imposed should relate to the standards of 2001, not 2012, his lawyer, Earl Cherniak, has argued.
Cherniak pointed out that Ontario Superior Court Justice Archie Campbell, in commenting on the Felderhof trial, said “neither side in this case has any monopoly over incivility or rhetorical excess.”
In imposing its penalty, the panel said Groia has never acknowledged professional misconduct or apologized.
“Mr. Groia has not suggested that his conduct was out of character. In fact he did the opposite in stating that he would pretty much do it the same way. This is an aggravating factor,” said panelists Thomas Conway, Susan T. McGrath and Baljit Sikand.
The panel found, however, as a mitigating factor that Groia has no prior disciplinary record and has made a positive contribution to the profession by teaching and mentoring.
The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Ontario) said in a news release Friday it deplores the panel’s penalty decision and the precedent it may set.
“We are most concerned about the potential chilling effect upon defence counsel who day in and day out perform their professional duty fearlessly advocating for their clients,” said Norm Boxall, president of the 1,000-member association of defence lawyers.