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B.C. rec property flip leads to disbarment of retired lawyer

Despite retiring and handing in his licence, lawyer Lindsay Ross has been disbarred by the Law Society of BC: 'Misconduct cannot be avoided simply by resigning from the Law Society'
Morning at Sproat Lake Provincial Park near Port Alberni. Kevstan via Wikipedia

A veteran lawyer who handed in his licence amid a misconduct probe has nevertheless been disbarred after a Law Society of BC tribunal found he misappropriated trust funds, misled clients, acted in a conflict of interest and facilitated a breach of a trust agreement.

The tribunal found Lindsay Adam Cristopher Ross showed “serious lapses of responsibility regarding trust accounting processes and lack of respect for lawyers and the court” after it was determined Ross misappropriated $100,000 of his client’s funds and “repeatedly made false and misleading claims” to his clients and members of the society.

Ross had become a lawyer in B.C. in 1989 and was considered by the society to be a senior lawyer, experienced in complex commercial transactions.

Ross had shown up to represent himself at the tribunal hearing but failed to respond to any communications from the society or tribunal regarding the disciplinary action hearing, the tribunal stated in its ruling posted online March 22.

Ross is said to have retired on June 5, 2020 but on July 13, 2020, he was suspended from practice and on Jan. 1, 2021, he became a former member of the society.

However, the society pursued disbarment, which is the “presumptive disciplinary action for intentional misappropriation.”

The tribunal explained it “has the authority and responsibility to investigate and pursue the disciplinary process through to the disciplinary action phase even where a lawyer has ceased to be a member.

“This is to assure the public and the profession that the consequences of misconduct cannot be avoided simply by resigning from the Law Society. It also provides a record in the event that a member applies to renew their membership or to practise law in another jurisdiction,” the tribunal wrote.

In 2003, Ross represented his wife, his cousin and his cousin’s husband in buying a property on Sproat Lake. The parties then sold the first home and bought a second property, in 2005, with the cousin being “misled” about the purchase amount of the second property (so that they would pay more than half).

After the second home was sold in 2012, Ross “paid the net sales proceeds to a financial institution to pay out his wife’s mortgage and line of credit and to his wife directly” but his cousin and her spouse “did not receive the sale proceeds to which they were entitled” until they got their own lawyer, in July 2015, to sue Ross’ wife and institute garnishment proceedings. (Ross also failed to advise his cousin his wife had pulled a line of credit on the property.)

Ross and his wife “used those monies gained through his misconduct for other projects,” the ruling states.

In another instance, Ross used $100,000 of client funds for 13 months and without paying interest. The client was associated with the cousin, who eventually uncovered the misappropriation.

Ross never acknowledged any wrongdoing on his part, the tribunal determined.

“The Panel has been presented with no evidence of any extraordinary mitigating factors that exist to deviate from the expected consequence of disbarment,” the ruling states.

In addition to disbarment, Ross now owes the society $49,075 for proceeding costs, per the ruling.

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