Allegations of financial misdeeds by a prominent Edmonton criminal defence lawyer are being scrutinized at a Law Society of Alberta disciplinary hearing that got underway Monday.
Shawn Beaver was suspended by the society in 2015 following an investigation that allegedly discovered “several hundred thousand dollars” missing from client trust accounts.
At the opening of the hearing, society lawyers Shanna Hunka and Sharon Heine outlined the accusations against Beaver. He faces 12 disciplinary citations in connection with four instances: three relate to money missing from client trust accounts, and one concerns misconduct related to the sale of the home he shared with his ex-common law partner. Beaver has admitted to three of the allegations which were not detailed during the hearing, but maintains his innocence in connection to the other nine.
Following his suspension, the society handed control of Beaver’s law firm over to a Calgary lawyer who was appointed as a custodian. A suspended lawyer cannot practise, but Beaver set up a website advertising his services as a “legal consultant.” However, the law society obtained an injunction that put a stop to Beaver offering legal services. Hunka and Heine say some of Beaver’s colleagues–lawyers and other staff negatively affected by Beaver’s alleged misconduct, will be among the witnesses to testify. His ex-common law partner Crystal Frank, a lawyer who worked with him at the firm, will also testify.
Beaver’s wife and other family members were in attendance at the hearing.
In an opening statement, Beaver’s lawyer, Simon Renouf , said the three citations his client has admitted to are serious breaches and that serious sanctions are in store–but he said he does not believe any of the other allegations, which he described as “dramatic,” will be substantiated during the proceeding.
Renouf said Beaver’s situation is a “tragic story,” citing the death of Beaver’s mother, his alcohol addiction and serious emotional and mental struggles as the circumstances that led to the admitted misdeeds of his client.
“Things…came to a crisis,” Renouf said.
If the allegations against Beaver are proved, Hunke and Heine want him disbarred.
The society plans to call 18 witnesses throughout the hearing and expect extra days scheduled for January may be required.
A date has yet to be set for a separate citations the society has also levelled against Beaver based on allegations that he “touched a legal assistant in a sexual manner without her consent” and “failed to maintain a work environment free from sexual harassment.” These allegations will be heard at a later hearing for which a date has not been set.