Disgraced former refugee judge loses law licence
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Feb 09, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Disgraced former refugee judge loses law licence

Steve Ellis has been ordered to give up his licence to practise law, years after he was found guilty of misconduct in soliciting sexual favours from a South Korean refugee claimant in 2006


Disgraced former refugee judge Steve Ellis has been ordered to “surrender” his lawyer’s licence — years after he was found guilty of professional misconduct in soliciting sexual favours from a South Korean refugee claimant in 2006.

Ellis, a former Toronto city councillor, was convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2010 by the Superior Court of Justice. However, the Law Society Tribunal only held the disciplinary hearing against him in October after he had exhausted all his avenues of criminal appeals.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately dismissed Ellis’ appeal and he served his jail sentence from April to October that year when he was released on early parole.

“He used his position to offer a female claimant a positive decision in exchange for a sexual relationship. His actions were dishonest,” wrote tribunal chair David A. Wright in a recent 12-page decision.

“They deeply harmed the refugee claimant, whose claim was based on the threat of violence against her from her father and others. They breached the significant trust given to him and brought Canada’s justice system into disrepute.”

Although the charges warranted the revocation of a lawyer’s licence, Ellis had asked for permission to surrender his practice — a voluntary move that is deemed a lesser penalty and would not leave as much of a black mark on his record — on the grounds of his medical condition.

According to submissions to the tribunal, Ellis has bipolar II disorder, a condition that went undiagnosed until after his arrest. Citing a report by psychiatrist Dr. Sam Ozersky, the tribunal said Ellis’ disorder is of “a rapid cycling type” that causes drastic mood changes.

“He was obviously aware of the impact of his action and that what he was doing was wrong. However, given the grandiosity and invulnerability that comes with hypomanic states, he felt he was a saviour and above the law,” Wright wrote.

“He also obviously felt that the likelihood of consequences would be small because of an underlying sense of invulnerability and the awareness to appreciate the nature of his actions but not the nature of consequences from his actions.”

Counsel for the Law Society of Upper Canada, the regulatory body, had argued Ellis’ decision to appeal the criminal conviction and his jail sentence indicated his lack of remorse.

The tribunal disagreed and said a remorseful person may still choose to appeal a conviction that requires proof of the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, or to argue that a sentence was too harsh.

However, it concluded, “The public’s confidence in the legal profession would be diminished if Mr. Ellis continued to be licensed to practise law. His illness’s impact on his inhibitions and feeling of grandiosity are not sufficient to overcome the lack of integrity in the choices he made.”

Hence, the tribunal accepted Ellis’ request to voluntarily give up his licence and pay $5,000 in costs to the Law Society.

Ellis could not be reached for comment.

Ellis, who is in his mid-50s, was called to the bar in 1988 and worked as a litigator and city council member before he was appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2000. He was reappointed on a five-year term in 2002. He remains married to his wife of 27 years.

Toronto Star

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