Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoba lawyer disbarred over violations

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A veteran Manitoba criminal lawyer has been stripped of his licence following repeated procedural and ethical violations.

Ron Nadeau was disbarred following a recent hearing before the Law Society of Manitoba. He had been charged with 60 violations, which were uncovered by an audit of his private practice.

"It's the most serious disposition we can arrive at," Alan Fineblit, CEO of the law society, told the Free Press this week. "It's taking away someone's livelihood forever."

The rare declaration is a product of the extremely serious breaches committed by Nadeau. On average, the law society disbars fewer than one lawyer a year.

"The deeper we dug, the more we found," said Fineblit. This also marked the fourth time in his legal career, which began in 1990, Nadeau had been called on the carpet for his conduct.

In the most serious example of this recent case, Nadeau was found to have improperly pocketed retainer fees from clients rather than placing them in trust as is required.

Nadeau was based out of Winnipeg doing plenty of work in northern Manitoba communities and would often take payment from clients in the form of credits on his Northern Store account. He would then use the money to purchase groceries, clothing and other items such as cigars.

"You're not allowed to take money on your retainers. He was using it for personal use and before he was entitled to do so," said Fineblit.

He said no criminal investigation has resulted, as it appears the services that were paid for were in fact rendered.

But Nadeau made his personal situation worse by misleading the law society when questioned about it and even falsifying records in an attempt to cover up what he'd done, Fineblit said.

The method of payment he received made it difficult for authorities to initially detect.

And all of this was occurring while Nadeau was already under the watchful eye of the governing body after being found guilty of seven counts of professional misconduct in 2011.

His penalty at that time was a 60-day suspension, $7,000 fine and an order to only resume his practice under supervision.

Nadeau was also banned from having a trust account, or any signing authority on a trust account. That meant retainer fees were supposed to go through his supervisors.

His offences in that previous case also included improper handling of trust cheques, failing to remit GST and PST and failing to provide proper documentation to the law society.

Nadeau was also found guilty of five counts of professional misconduct in 2006 and 10 counts of professional misconduct in 2005.

All those incidents primarily involved failing to keep proper, up-to-date records. He was given $8,500 in fines and court costs as a result of both hearings.

"We've cut him a lot of slack over the years and tried to work with him," Fineblit said this week.

"But he started to kind of work around that."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 B1

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