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News and Views — Case Comment on Green v Law Society of Manitoba

Green v. Law Society of Manitoba |

2015 CarswellMan 332 |

Manitoba COurt of Appeal

Any lawyer who ever bristled at filling out forms detailing their educational reading history over a 12-month period might feel sympathetic towards Sidney Green, the unsuccessful appellant in Green v. Law Society of Manitoba (2015 CarswellMan 332).  Green, a lawyer of six decades standing, took issue with the continuing professional development program imposed by the governing body and refused to complete its requirements.  He was suspended, and responded with what amounted to an application to declare the program invalid.  It was found that the Legal Profession Act granted authority for a mandatory CPD program, and to sanction those lawyers who did not meet its requirements.   Furthermore, as the suspension did not involve misconduct, the procedure followed preserved natural justice. 

It took Morrin J.A. less than eight pages to uphold these findings on appeal.  While he stressed that a liberal and broad interpretation should be given to the Act, surely only a purposive interpretation was necessary to find the Society had the power to enact the program. Sections 3(1) and (2), setting out the purpose and duties of the Society, gave interpretive context to the rule making power in s. 4(5), and s. 65 allowed for rules setting out consequences for breaches. Arguments relating to procedural fairness fared no better. 

A ruling from an appellate court should put paid to any similar attacks on a law society’s ability to set out the details of its professional requirements. Although from a single province and interpreting a specific statute, the conclusions reached can easily be applied elsewhere.  Enabling statutes such as Ontario’s Law Society Act have a similar format to the Manitoba legislation, setting the scope of a lawyer’s duty and the Society’s role in monitoring their performance to protect the public. Since 2006 the Ontario law has also made specific reference to a continuing professional development program.  As the appellate court pointed out, the courts are not the proper forum for determining the appropriateness and administration of CPD, and the matter should be taken up amongst benchers.  

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