A lawyer was disciplined and disbarred, and the costs of the discipliary hearing were ordered against him. He did not pay the costs and later declared bankruptcy and was subsequently discharged. Several years later he applied for readmission to the Law Society. The Law Society said his application could not be considered by the Admissions Committee because he had not complied with s. 29(1)(c) of the Law Society Act, 1996, which precludes reinstatement unless an applicant has paid “any fees, assessments or costs in respect of which the applicant is in arrears, except to the extent that the amount owing is waived by Council.” On review, the application judge and the Court of Appeal agreed with the lawyer that his application for readmission should be passed onto the Admissions Committee for consideration because it was for the Committee to decide whether to reinstate a former member if satisfied that the conditions set out in s. 29(1) have been met.

Mix v. Law Society of New Brunswick

[2015] N.B.J. No. 149

2015 NBCA 37

New Brunswick Court of Appeal

J.C.M. Richard, K.A. Quigg and B.V. Green JJ.A.

May 21, 2015

Mr. Mix was a lawyer in New Brunswick who was disciplined and disbarred following several complaints to the Law Society and his indefinite leave from practice which led to a custodianship of his practice. The costs of the disciplinary proceedings were ordered against him, but he did not pay them. Mr. Mix declared bankruptcy in August 2006 and was discharged in November 2008. In April 2012, Mr. Mix applied for reinstatement with the Law Society. The Law Society took the position that his application for reinstatement could not be routed through the usual path to the Admissions Committee because he had not complied with s. 29(1)(c) of the Law Society Act, 1996, which precludes reinstatement unless an applicant has paid “any fees, assessments or costs in respect of which the applicant is in arrears, except to the extent that the amount owing is waived by Council.” Mr. Mix applied to the court for relief given the Law Society’s unwillingness to direct his application to the Admissions Committee.

The application judge ruled that Mr. Mix’s application must be presented to the Admissions Committee as it is for that Committee to decide whether he meets the requirements for reinstatement, including whether he is in arrears of any fees, assessments or costs. The Law Society appealed the ruling on the basis that the judge erred in law in failing to find that Mr. Mix’s bankruptcy rendered him “ineligible for reinstatement to the Law Society as he cannot comply with subsection 29(1) of the Law Society Act, 1996.” The Law Society argued that the Admissions Committee had no jurisdiction to consider Mr. Mix’s request for readmission since the costs owing by him to the Law Society had not been paid or waived by Council.

The Court of Appeal held that the Act is clear in that a person who has been disbarred may apply for reinstatement if that person satisfies the Admissions Committee with respect to the requirements in subsection 29(1) of the Act. The Court agreed with the application judge that it is the Admissions Committee that may decide whether to reinstate a former member if satisfied that the conditions set out in section 29(1) have been met. As a result, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Law Society’s appeal.