Friday, April 8, 2016

B.C. judge orders dirty lawyers to pay back legal fees

A B.C. judge has ordered an Ontario company to repay the federal government more than $800,000 in unnecessary and unreasonable legal fees and costs.

The fees were billed in connection with an investigation into a law firm’s participation in a settlement agreement to compensate Indian residential school survivors.

Stephen J. Bronstein entering court.
In a ruling released in October last year, she ordered Bronstein and Company of Vancouver to reimburse the government in the amount of $1.25 million in what she deemed to be reasonable costs associated with the investigation. Bronstein has been named as the lawyer who allegedly worked with Ivon Johnny, a convicted murderer who extorted money from survivors he signed up for the Independent Assessment Process (IAP).

The judge also found that Crawford Class Action Service, a company that assists in the administration of class action settlements, had charged the Canadian government unreasonable and unnecessary amounts. In a ruling released Monday, she ordered Crawford to repay a total of $874,700.

Michael Mooney, Crawford vice-president and general manager.

Howard Drabinsky
In the October ruling, the judge focused on the legal fees charged by Howard Drabinsky, a senior legal counsel for McMillan in Ontario.

McMillan had charged a total of $1.77 million in connection with the Bronstein matter. In comparison, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, another national law firm, charged $764,000. The judge noted that Drabinsky charged between $775 and $835 an hour, billing more than 1,500 hours for a total of $1,244,000. Drabinsky, a commercial solicitor, was not a litigator and did not have a speaking role in any of the court appearances. Nor did Drabinsky draft any court documents, conduct the examination of Bronstein or assist in obtaining evidence for the hearings. Despite this, Drabinsky attended the examination, interlocutory applications and substantive hearings.

David Blott
In 2014 Calgary lawyer David Blott, who misused his position to take financial advantage of Indian residential school abuse survivors, was prohibited from practicing law in Alberta. He represented more than 4,700 claimants and earned millions of dollars under the Independent Assessment Process (IAP)

He was investigated and found guilty of misconduct regarding his representation of claimants. As of May 31, 2014 the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat, which manages the IAP, had received 37,870 applications for compensation. Of this number, 27,941 cases have been resolved and more than $2.4 billion has been paid out. The last compensation hearings will take place in the spring of 2016 and the process will be completed by 2018.