Civil Litigation

Supreme Court majority sides with censured former Bre X lawyer Joe Groia


OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a series of complaints against a lawyer who was found to have breached the rules of civil courtroom behaviour during his aggressive but successful defence of a man charged in the billion-dollar Bre-X mining fiasco.

In a split decision, the justices sided with Joe Groia, a prominent Toronto-based securities lawyer who was represented by Earl Cherniak, partner with Lerners LLP.

The Law Society of Upper Canada found Groia breached civility rules and at one point suspended him for two months and ordered him to pay $247,000 in costs — later reduced to a one-month suspension and $200,000.

The Supreme Court says the law society's finding of professional misconduct was unreasonable because Groia's actions were based on a sincerely held — but erroneous — legal belief.

The court ruled 6-3 in Groia's favour, although one judge in the majority had differing reasons.

The case involved a 10-year fight, pitted Groia against the society that regulates lawyers in Ontario, ate up millions in legal fees and was the subject of a split finding by the province's top court, which agreed his courtroom conduct was out of line.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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