The Law Society of BC has suspended a Surrey lawyer for three months, after a disciplinary panel determined he had committed professional misconduct four years ago.
According to a news release issued Friday (June 19), a Law Society panel ordered the suspension – which begins July 13 – against John (Jack) Joseph Jacob Hittrich for “attempting to resolve litigation in favour of his clients through improper means.”
The release cites a letter that was sent to the Director of Child, Family and Community Services which threatened to expose alleged perjury by representatives of the director, “unless the director agreed to settle litigation as his clients proposed.”
“In making this threat, Hittrich attempted to influence the Director to exercise her statutory decision-making authority for an improper purpose,” the release states.
Written reasons note the conduct at issue occurred in approximately September 2016, during Hittrich’s representation of foster parents who retained him after the director refused to consent to their adoption of a child in their care.
Responding to the complaint triggered by the letter, Hittrich wrote to the Law Society in October 2017, stating he had been “emotionally involved” in his clients’ cause, and believed his letter to the director “was within the bounds of proper settlement negotiations,” the reasons note.
“What I failed to appreciate at that time was that the Director was not just any party,” the excerpt of Hittrich’s letter to the society continues. “It had an independent duty to act in what it perceived to be the child’s best interests… As such, I simply did not see the ‘threat’ in my letter as improper at the time.”
Following a hearing that took place over three days in March and April of last year and included oral testimony, the panel found that the preparation and sending of Hittrich’s letter to the director “constituted a marked departure from the standard of conduct the Law Society expects of lawyers.”
“Lawyers cannot say whatever they feel like in order to motivate or induce others to do things that they would not otherwise do,” the written reasons state.
In ordering the three-month suspension, the release adds, the panel considered Hittrich’s professional-conduct record as well as the nature of the misconduct, which was found to have been “planned and committed for tactical advantage.”