Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
A senior lawyer who used her clients' money to 'sow seed' at her church has failed in her efforts to overturn a decision by the Disciplinary Committee of the General Legal Council (GLC) to disbar her.
Chandra Soares, the lawyer involved, was present in the Court of Appeal last Friday when her appeal was dismissed.
The court was told that one of her clients, Kenneth Roy Chung, had complained to the GLC that in 2008 he retained Soares to sell a property at 50 Barbican Road, St Andrew.
The purchase price was $35 million but Soares drafted the agreement, for sale to indicate that the price was $25.5 million.
According to the court document, she did so with the knowledge that $10 million had already been paid by the purchasers to Chung and $25.5 million was not the full purchase price.
The sale was completed in September 2008 and Chung should have received $21,985,424.76 from the proceeds of the sale.
However, Soares paid him only $14 million, leaving a balance of $7,985,424.76.
Soares told the court that she was unable to pay the full sum to Chung because between 2006 and 2008, she had used money entrusted to her by her clients to "sow seed" at her church.
Chung made a complaint to the GLC after he refused a September request from Soares for time to pay the outstanding amount.
Wished to withdraw
The balance was paid some three months later with interest and Chung wrote to the GLC advising that he received the money and wished to withdraw the complaint.
However, the GLC panel ruled that based on the nature of the allegations, if it allowed the withdrawal of the complaint, that would amount to "an acceptance that the conduct disclosed in the complaint was consistent with the standard of conduct to be expected by the public from an attorney-at-law".
The panel directed that the hearing into the complaint should proceed.
During the hearing, Soares explained that the reason for the shortfall was "really church related".
"If I may say, I fell into a pit. I had gotten myself into a situation where demands were being made on me for funds and it led to a shortage," Soares told the panel.
She further stated that she was demanded to sow seed by her church Bishop and that was what caused her to have to resort to her clients' funds.
The panel found that Soares knowingly converted the money to her own use and benefit or to the use and benefit of persons other than the complainant and without his consent.
According to the committee, Soares, by her conduct, had breached the Canon of the Legal Profession (Canons of Profession Ethics), and by her conduct, had failed to maintain the honour and dignity of the profession.
The committee described Soares' conduct as "egregious, unacceptable and inexcusable".
It was ordered that she be struck from the roll of attorneys-at-law entitled to practise in Jamaica.
Soares — who was represented on appeal by Queen's Counsel RNA Henriques and attorney-at-law John Givans — appealed on the grounds that the sanction was too harsh and severe.
But Queen's Counsel Michael Hylton, who represented the GLC, argued that the court should only interfere with the ruling if it were satisfied that the penalty imposed by the committee was plainly wrong or unreasonable.
The Court of Appeal comprising Justice Hazel Harris, Justice Mahadev Dukharan and Justice Norma McIntosh, in dismissing the appeal, held that given the totality of the facts in the case, the sanction imposed by the committee could not be said to be plainly wrong.