Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 19, 2016 - 7:00 am

Nunavut Law Society probes conduct of Horne victims’ lawyer

Lawyer who filed lawsuit on behalf of aggrieved clients complains to lawyers' governing body

THOMAS ROHNER
The Nunavut Law Society last week sought an order to seal its investigation into the conduct of lawyer Geoffrey Budden, a law society member, but Justice Paul Bychok did not grant the request. (FILE PHOTO)
The Nunavut Law Society last week sought an order to seal its investigation into the conduct of lawyer Geoffrey Budden, a law society member, but Justice Paul Bychok did not grant the request. (FILE PHOTO)

The Nunavut Law Society has decided to investigate one of its members, Newfoundland lawyer Geoffrey Budden, for professional misconduct in connection with his work representing victims of one of the biggest sex abuse scandals in the territory’s history.

Budden and another lawyer, Stuart Morris, represented 32 Inuit plaintiffs in the second of two lawsuits filed against the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories by victims of convicted sex offender Ed Horne.

In August 2015 those plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Budden and Morris. They alleged the lawyers improperly withheld money from them in the $15.5-million settlement reached in 2011.

Those allegations have not been proven in court.

Those same allegations are now being used by the law society to investigate Budden under the Legal Profession Act,  the law society’s chief executive officer said in a statement filed with the courts June 21.

Nalini Vaddapalli said the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the civil suit against Budden contacted the law society with a number of complaints that “raise conduct concerns.”

As a result, the society’s disciplinary committee launched an investigation into Budden’s professional conduct.

Vaddapalli’s statement does not mention Morris, Budden’s co-counsel in the Horne suit.

But her statement said former clients of Budden, now complaining about his legal services, were represented by Budden in five separate civil case files.

It is unclear if all five of those files are linked to the Horne settlement, or clients that Budden represented in relation to other alleged sexual abusers.

In 2008, Budden filed four statements of claim on behalf of Nunavut residents from at least five communities who alleged they were abused by teachers Maurice Cloughley and James MacDiarmid, and by social worker Kevin Clarke Amyot.

Vaddapalli’s statement also said that during the early stage of evidence-collection for the law society’s civil case, “a large number” of questions put to Budden “remain outstanding.”

According to court documents, Justice Paul Bychok held a special chambers meeting July 15 to hear arguments about whether the law society’s investigation into Budden should be sealed from the public to preserve Budden’s reputation “pending investigation.”

In court July 12 lawyers on both sides told Bychok they had agreed a sealing order was appropriate.

But Bychok told them at the time that their agreement on the sealing order is not enough and that he needed to be convinced by arguments.

Lawyers failed to convince Bychok, since a sealing order was not placed on the file.

 

 

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