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If your complaint against a lawyer was dismissed, you may be able to appeal that decision. Disagreeing with the decision to dismiss your complaint is not a ground for appeal.
For more information on the Complaint Dismissal Appeals process, please review the Complaint Dismissal Appeals Guideline and the information below.
A complaint dismissal can only be appealed by the person who filed the initial complaint or by a lawyer representing that person.
To file an appeal of the direction to dismiss your complaint, you need to fill out the Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form, which would have been provided to you with the letter dismissing your complaint. You will need to complete and return the Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form by email to the Complaint Appeals mailbox or mail to the Law Society (attention to Complaint Dismissal Appeals) within 30 days of receiving the letter dismissing your complaint.
You will be considered to have received the dismissal letter on the day it was sent via email or 14 business days from the day the dismissal letter is sent via regular mail, as applicable.
The Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form and submissions, including any new evidence, are limited to 15 pages. This will be the complainant’s only opportunity for submissions, and no further materials will be accepted, other than the complainant’s limited response as provided for in paragraph 16 of the Complaint Dismissal Appeals Guideline.
We will not accept your Complaint Dismissal Appeal if you submit more than 15 pages.
Complaint Dismissal Appeals are in writing. There is no oral hearing and no oral submissions unless requested by the Appeal Panel.
It is important to understand the role of complainants in the regulation of the lawyer’s conduct. Complainants are not parties to the regulation process like they can be in a civil court action. They cannot direct how the Law Society will deal with the lawyer’s conduct. That is the job of the Law Society. Disagreeing with the decision of the Executive Director/Delegate of Executive Director to dismiss a complaint is not a ground to appeal.
However, complainants can be valuable witnesses and can bring important information forward that will allow the Law Society to deal with a lawyer’s conduct. The purpose of a Complaint Dismissal Appeal is to determine if the decision to dismiss your complaint was reasonable in the circumstances. An appeal generally looks at whether the direction to dismiss your complaint was reasonable based on the relevant information considered by the Executive Director/Delegate of the Executive Director. It is not a fresh review of your complaint. The grounds for an appeal may include: inadequate review; failure to consider important facts; and failure to properly apply the Code of Conduct or The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta.
The Chair of the Appeal Committee has the discretion to extend the time for delivery of the Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form, but extensions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. In order for the deadline to be extended, you will need to prove that something beyond your control prevented you from returning the Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form by the deadline. Requests for an extension of the deadline should be made before the time limit expires.
A request for an extension should be in writing and sent to the Complaint Appeals mailbox.
Complaint Dismissal Appeals are decided by a panel of three members of the Appeal Committee. These three members are called the Appeal Panel. One member of each Appeal Panel will be designated as the Chair of that panel. The members of the Appeal Committee are Benchers of the Law Society. Benchers are the directors of the Law Society and are either lawyers who are elected or appointed, or members of the public appointed by the Government.
The Appeal Panel will review relevant material considered by the Executive Director or Delegate of the Executive Director regarding your complaint.
The Appeal Panel can:
- direct the complaint be dismissed;
- allow the appeal and refer the complaint to the Conduct Committee.
The Appeal Panel cannot:
- review new complaints;
- conduct a further investigation of your complaint;
- make any findings against the lawyer you complained about; or,
- authorize any disciplinary action against the lawyer your complaint is about.
The standard of review is reasonableness. This means that the Appeal Panel needs to decide if the Executive Director’s/Delegate of the Executive Director’s direction to dismiss the complaint was reasonable in all the circumstances. It is important to understand that the Appeal Panel is not reconsidering the complaint and applying its own judgment. It is assessing whether the direction to dismiss the complaint was reasonable.
Appeals are reviewed in the order they are received. It generally takes three to four months for an appeal to be decided. Your appeal may take more or less time depending on the number of appeals that were sent to the Law Society ahead of your appeal.
A copy of the written decision is provided to both the complainant and the lawyer against whom the complaint was made.
The decision of the Appeal Panel is final and there is no further appeal. Section 57 of the Legal Profession Act may allow for further re-examination in very rare circumstances where it is clear to the Chair of the Conduct Committee that a significant factual or legal element was overlooked or unknown at the time the complaint was dismissed.
If you have any further questions, please contact the Complaint Appeals mailbox.