LAWYER SUSPENDED FOR TAKING CLIENT DRUGS
Gauthier Didn't Stop Inmate Who Took Cocaine To Her Client
TORONTO - An Ottawa lawyer who brought a syringe cointaining cocaine
hidden inside a chocolate bar into the city jail has been suspended
from practising law for a month.
In a split decision, a three-member disciplinary panel of the Law
Society of Upper Canada, which regulates lawyers in Ontario, accepted
a joint submission and found Rose-Lyne Gauthier guilty of "conduct
unbecoming a solicitor."
She was banned from practising law for the month of August and ordered
to pay $1,000 to cover the costs of the hearing.
"It was a mistake on your part. You have weathered it with courage,"
said Toronto lawyer John Campion, who chaired the disciplinary panel.
Mr. Campion and Allan Gotlib, a chiropractor appointed by the province
to serve as a "lay bencher" with the law society, agreed to impose the
The third member of the panel, lawyer Robert Aaron, disagreed and
suggested a reprimand would have been a more appropriate penalty. Mr.
Aaron was sharply critical of the law society for its delay in
proceeding with the disciplinary hearing, which took place more than
two years after the end of Ms. Gauthier's criminal trial.
"She has been under the fear of the guillotine of disbarment for two
years. What is going on at the law society that it took two years?"
asked Mr. Aaron.
Naomi Overend, a lawyer for the law society, said it was required to
investigate issues "not addressed in the criminal trial."
Ms. Gauthier fought back tears yesterday as she made a brief statement
to the panel.
"I wish to repeat my apologies to the members of the profession and
the law society," Ms. Gauthier said.
The family and real estate lawyer pleaded guilty to an accessory
charge in March 2002. A Superior Court judge imposed a suspended
sentence and two years probation, as well as 180 hours of community
work. Ms. Gauthier originally faced five charges, including
trafficking. Four charges were withdrawn.
Ms. Gauthier has admitted she brought the chocolate bar, as well as a
can of pop and a medical textbook, to the Innes Road jail during a
visit to her client, Richard Condo, in October 2000. The lawyer, who
had only been practising for about a year at the time of the incident,
was representing Mr. Condo on a
child custody matter.
Mr. Condo, who has more than 80 criminal convictions, was declared a
long-term offender in 2001. His crimes include the kidnapping and
aggravated assault of his estranged wife.
Guards at the jail refused to allow Ms. Gauthier to visit her client.
She returned a short time later and asked for a visit with another
inmate who was housed in the same area. The lawyer was observed
placing the pop on the table along with the chocolate bar, which was
still in its wrapper.
The candy had been obtained from a friend of Mr. Condo's and was
believed to be either a Snickers or Mars bar. The inmate immediately
inserted the chocolate bar in his rectum. He was strip-searched and
placed in a "dry cell."
The guards discovered an empty syringe that contained minute traces of
cocaine and THC.
"The law society is not alleging the member knowingly or was wilfully
blind in bringing in drugs" to the jail, Ms. Overend said. Instead,
the law society lawyer suggested Ms. Gauthier was guilty of a "sin of
"When the inmate inserted the chocolate bar into his rectum, at that
point the member was obliged to act," said Ms. Overend.
The panel heard Ms. Gauthier was questioned by the jail guards about
the incident, but denied anything had happened or that there might
have been potential criminal activity.
Ottawa lawyer Douglas Baum, who also represented Ms. Gauthier in the
criminal proceeding, told the panel the publicity from this case has
been "very trying for her in the public arena."
He noted that the incident occurred nearly four years ago and Ms.
Gauthier has been waiting for more than two years to learn if she
would be disbarred.
Ms. Gauthier is a single mother of two teenagers who returned to law
school in the late 1990s when she was in her late 30s.
"The future looked bright and then this happened. She has learned her
lesson. This behaviour will never reoccur," said Mr. Baum.