A family law practitioner from Nanaimo has incurred a penalty of $7,500 due to inappropriate comments made about a judicial member’s personal life, as disclosed by the Law Society of British Columbia. Brett Robert Vining was found liable for remarks that were classified as “disrespectful, derogatory, offensive, and discourteous,” contradicting the Professional Conduct Code of British Columbia during a hearing conducted over the summer.
The Panel’s verdict was uploaded online on the preceding Friday. As per a consolidated record of the incidents, in a meeting convened during the summer of 2021, Vining divulged to his client, referred to as “TK”, an unsubstantiated “rumour” about a judiciary member’s past sexual exploits from their university days.
Disturbed by this inappropriate chatter, the client reported the incident to the Law Society, expressing discomfort over the situation. TK recounted that Vining appeared to revel in the narration, which continued for a considerably long duration.
Contrarily, Vining contended that the dialogue was brief and TK’s allegations of his delight were exaggerated. Yet, he acknowledged the remarks he made to TK, terming it as “locker room talk” and conceding it was offensive and ill-judged.
The Panel determined that Vining’s conduct violated two distinct regulations within the B.C. Code, one being an attorney’s duty to hold the judiciary in esteem and the other dictating the suitable decorum for communication between a lawyer and client.
The Panel’s resolution emphasized that Vining’s actions unambiguously constituted professional transgressions, categorizing the remarks as “pointless and unwarranted.” The decision further observed the comments as “scandalous gossip” about a judiciary member.
The Panel noted that clients should anticipate courteous and professional services from their attorneys. Yet, the client in this instance had to tolerate crude, discredifiable hearsay that deviated from their legal matter and created discomfort.
While determining the punitive measures for Vining, the Panel called attention to his earlier conduct. Specifically, he had been pulled up for “exhibiting rudeness” and a “lack of professional courtesy” back in 1991, and for poor handling of cash receipts in 2021.
The Panel’s decision underscored that instances of “rudeness” usually result in a fine instead of severe actions, like disbarment. Nevertheless, they labeled Vining’s misconduct as “severe,” accusing him of gross disrespect towards the judiciary and tarnishing the legal profession’s reputation.
The Panel decreed that Vining should pay a $7,500 fine in addition to $1,000 for the hearing’s expenses within 90 days of the decision issued on Aug. 31st. In the Panel’s view, these disciplinary measures would hold Vining accountable and deter others from similar indiscretions.