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B.C. lawyer fined $7.5K for telling client 'crude, undignified gossip' about judiciary member's sex life

Scales of justice. (Shutterstock) Scales of justice. (Shutterstock)

A Nanaimo lawyer has been handed a $7,500 fine for making comments about a member of the judiciary’s sexual history to his client, according to the Law Society of British Columbia.

Brett Robert Vining, who practices family law, was disciplined for making statements that were “discourteous, uncivil, offensive and disrespectful,” contrary to the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia at a hearing earlier this summer.

The hearing panel’s decision was posted online Friday.

According to an agreed upon statement of facts, during a meeting in the summer of 2021 Vining told his client—referred to as TK—an “alleged rumour” about a judiciary member’s sexual activity, which took place when the member was in university.

The client told the law society about the “inappropriate and disrespectful” conversation, saying it made them uncomfortable.

TK told the society that Vining “seemed full of delight when he relayed the story and it carried on for some length of time.”

Vining, in turn, argued the conversation lasted only a few minutes and that TK’s “full of delight” description was an exaggeration.

He did, however, admit that he made the comments to TK, describing them as “locker room talk,” and conceded they were “offensive and ill-advised.”

The panel found Vining’s conduct was contrary to two different rules in the B.C. code: one that states lawyers must respect the courts and another that outlines the appropriate tone of communication between lawyers and clients.

The panel noted in its decision that Vining’s behaviour “clearly” amounted to professional misconduct because “the comments were gratuitous and uncalled for.”

“They were nothing more than salacious gossip about a member of the judiciary,” the decision continues.

“A client should expect to receive a level of service from their lawyer that is civil and professional. Instead, the client in this case was subjected to crude, undignified gossip which distracted from the client’s legal case, and made the client feel uncomfortable,” the panel wrote.

When assessing the disciplinary action against Vining, the panel took his previous conduct into consideration. Namely, that he was reviewed for “rudeness and lack of professional courtesy” in 1991, and for his handling of cash receipts in 2021.

The panel noted in its decision that cases of “incivility” normally warrant a fine, as opposed to a more serious action such as disbarment.

Still, the panel said Vining’s misconduct was “serious,” and that “he displayed a flagrant disrespect for the judiciary and brought the legal profession into disrepute.”

The panel concluded that Vining must pay a $7,500 fine as well as $1,000 for the cost of the hearing. He has 90 days to do so after the panel’s decision was issued on Aug. 31.

“It is our view the specified disciplinary action will ensure the respondent is held accountable for his statements and will deter others from engaging in similar misconduct,” the panel wrote. Top Stories

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