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The former head of the governing body for Ontario lawyers has been suspended Lawyer has affair with clients wife sexual dysfunction practising for 60 days after admitting to a sexual affair with a client.
George Hunter, 59, offered an emotional apology to his colleagues, family and ex-lover yesterday after pleading guilty to professional misconduct. The relationship began almost three years after the client, known only as X.
Over dinner, Hunter told her his marriage "had been over for a long time but he continued to live with his wife for the sake of their children," according to a statement of fact filed with a law society disciplinary panel yesterday. The relationship ended abruptly after Hunter asked X. In a move that might be worthy of entry in the annals of unromantic gestures, Hunter, just before disclosing those affairs, presented X. It deals with conflicts of interest between lawyers and clients.
Earlier that day, he told colleagues at a meeting of his law firm's management committee about his affair with X. They agreed it should be reported to the law society and Hunter wanted X.
While Hunter's conduct was described yesterday as falling short of the standards of integrity expected of members of the legal profession, there are no rules in Canada that explicitly ban sex between lawyers and clients.
The law society's professional conduct rules warn lawyers against conflicts of interest and other situations that could impair their objectivity and loyalty to a client.
Law Society prosecutor Doug Hunt, who had asked the panel to suspend Hunter from practising for four months, said the case drives home for lawyers "just how dangerous the waters are when one chooses to enter into a personal relationship with a client.
Hunter have been learned," Hunt said. The longer the relationship goes on, the greater the risk a lawyer will not deal with a client's legal issues objectively, he said.
But Chris Paliare, Hunter's lawyer, said there has been no suggestion that X. Paliare presented the panel with a large book of letters from prominent members of the legal community, many describing Hunter as warm, generous, conscientious and principled.
Calling the circumstances of the case "unique," Paliare argued Hunter's conduct warranted a reprimand or, at most, a one-month suspension. When his two months in the penalty box are over, Hunter will return to work. Borden Ladner Gervais "is taking him back," Paliare said.
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