HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has disbarred Lyle Howe in a disciplinary panel ruling that says the high-profile defence lawyer lied repeatedly to the courts.
The penalty was announced Friday following a July decision that the Halifax lawyer had committed multiple acts of professional incompetence and misconduct.
Howe has also been ordered to pay the society $150,000 in costs for his lengthy hearing before he can reapply to regain his status as a lawyer in five years.
“Mr. Howe’s dishonesty and lack of integrity, as continuous and repetitive as it was, leaves us with no option but to rule disbarment is necessary. His other proven behaviours only strengthen that conclusion,” panel chair Ronald J. MacDonald wrote.
Howe, who is black, had argued he was singled out over the 40 different allegations that included him missing court appointments, booking himself into multiple courts at the same time, and misleading the court about a client’s absence or other issues.
The discipline committee found the society tried to assist Howe and recommended counselling, but he failed to attend meetings or take its advice, and his repeated dishonesty to the courts remained a grave concern.
The decision says, “Mr. Howe grew up in circumstances that place him squarely in line to feel the impacts of systemic and historical racism,” and that led him to distrust the barristers society and some judges and Crown prosecutors.
It also notes that his race played a role in how he was dealt with by some members of the Crown, without specifying in the decision how that occurred.
However, the ruling concludes his behaviour can’t be excused on the basis of any discrimination he may have experienced.
“While there were some examples of unfairness, the actual evidence of this was not significant when considering Mr. Howe’s entire practice. Indeed, most of the direct evidence on this point showed that persons did not treat Mr. Howe differently because of race, but did treat him differently because of his behaviours regarding court commitments,” says the decision.
“He was characterized by some as being the worst offender in this regard.”
The panel’s decision can be appealed to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on the basis of any questions of law.
Howe was unavailable for comment.