The Law Society Starts Looking at Falconi
October 30th, 2016
“Pursuant to Sec. 49.3(1) and (2) of the Law Society Act, the Complainant states that a practicing lawyer in Ontario registered with the Law Society of Upper Canada, Mr. Robert Joseph Falconi, the General Counsel of [the Canadian Standards Association (CSA)], during the third and fourth quarters of 2014 and continuing to the present, willingly, knowingly, and with intent……”
And thus began our filing with the Law Society of Upper Canada against RJ Falconi, the CSA’s General Counsel. You may recall him, we wrote about Falconi’s antics earlier this month.
Falconi is a lawyer, that’s his qualification to be CSA’s General Counsel. Whenever a legal question rises at CSA, as with any entity, that question is sent to their legal department. At CSA, it’s Falconi and his team who assesses the particulars of the legal question and then issues a legal opinion, or a decision, or recommendation, as the case may be.
As General Counsel, it was Falconi who launched CSA’s attack against PS Knight Co, the owner of RestoreCSA. But that’s small stuff in CSA’s context. Falconi’s overseen a wide range of, shall we say, interesting legal conduct, a sampling of which is available here. Indeed, for the last seventeen years Falconi has been responsible for the legality of all of CSA’s corporate conduct.
For instance, the decision to claim in Court that CSA has no responsibility to public safety was ultimately Falconi’s decision. And that’s tame, as CSA’s conduct goes. And all that conduct falls at the feet of Falconi. And that brings us back to the Law Society.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is the regulatory body governing the conduct of lawyers in Ontario. The Law Society isn’t keen on conduct unbefitting a professional lawyer. And they say so, in their regulations governing the conduct of lawyers; the Law Society Act.
Sec. 49.3(1) – “The Society may conduct an investigation into a licensee’s conduct if the Society receives information suggesting that the licensee may have engaged in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming of a licensee”
And elsewhere in the Act;
Sec. 42(1) – “The Society may conduct a review of a licensee’s professional business in accordance with the by-laws for the purpose of determining if the licensee is failing or has failed to meet standards of professional competence,”
Sec. 33 – “A licensee shall not engage in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee.”
These rules have the force of law and are called standards, CSA should be familiar with the term. The Law Society’s standards are pretty high and, given CSA’s verifiable conduct, and Falconi’s responsibility for that conduct, these standards give us grounds for action.
Specifically, under Falconi’s guidance the CSA has been selling influence over domestic legislation to foreign companies, persons, etc. without Federal authorization. One cannot furnish influence over domestic law to foreigners, that’s a big no-no. Imagine how much trouble an MP would be in for selling their Parliamentary vote to, say, Vladimir Putin. Laws are sovereign, they are not for sale.
In Canada, selling influence over legislation to foreigners is a serious violation of several sections of the Criminal Code and, in the United States, it’s a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and various states’ RICO (anti-racketeering) laws. In other words, in both countries its a crime.
Among the relevant laws prohibiting influence peddling, the Law Society Act (which governs the conduct of Ontario’s legal professionals through the Law Society of Upper Canada) specifically and quite forcefully frowns upon such conduct;
“Public confidence in the administration of justice and in the legal profession may be eroded by a lawyer’s irresponsible conduct. Accordingly, a lawyer’s conduct should reflect favourably on the legal profession, inspire the confidence, respect and trust of clients and of the community, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.” [emphasis added]
Influence peddling does not appear compatible with the professional conduct requirements of the Act.
It doesn’t stop there, as lawyers have a talent for bluntness, as amply displayed in Sec.3 of the Act;
“A lawyer shall not knowingly assist in or encourage any dishonesty, fraud, crime, or illegal conduct or instruct a client or any other person on how to violate the law and avoid punishment.”
“Rule 3.2-7 which states that a lawyer must not knowingly assist in or encourage dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct, applies whether the lawyer’s knowledge is actual or in the form of wilful blindness or recklessness.”
Further, the regulatory reach of the Law Society extends even into a lawyer’s private life, giving them disciplinary powers over “questionable conduct on the part of a lawyer in either private life or professional practice”. [emphasis added]
Let’s give credit where it’s due; the Law Society has been very clear in its professional standards and their standards are very high.
We will be clear also. The practice of selling influence over the law is unlawful and constitutes a debasement of that law. Such conduct is clearly not professional.
RestoreCSA readers know that influence peddling is merely tip-of-the-iceberg with CSA, but its a very good place to start. You see, unlike a lot of CSA’s “dishonourable or questionable conduct,” the CSA has openly admitted to their influence peddling practices, both in their own publications and on their own website. They printed 60,000 copies of the Canadian Electrical Code, as passed into law in Canada, and then distributed these copies across the land, each one containing a list of the foreigners who’d amended it. They advertised the sale of influence on their website, then we reported that, and then CSA deleted the evidence. Happily, we have screen captures of pages they deleted. In other words, this charge is especially easy to prove, so its a good place to start.
We filed with the Law Society in early October. As of October 27th, the Society has opened a review of Falconi’s conduct, first to verify that it “raises issues of professional conduct,” and, if confirmed, the Society will then direct the matter to the Professional Regulation Division, probably in November.
What’s the likely outcome?
Well, if the Law Society is serious about professional conduct and if their regulations are to be taken seriously, and given their high standards we should have confidence on both points, then a formal investigation is quite likely indeed.
We put it plainly in our filing, that given the severity and ubiquity of his questionable conduct, it is just and reasonable to expect an “immediate suspension of Mr. Falconi’s license and, upon completion of the Society’s investigation, disbarment pursuant to the Act and the Rules.”
We’ll keep you posted.