PART I: The Making of Lyle Howe
“High school taught me what to think.
Philosophy taught me how to think.
Law school will teach me why all this thinking is necessary.”
“Discover the Unexpected” marketing campaign
“The Complaints Investigation Committee of the NOVA SCOTIA BARRISTERS’ SOCIETY
gives notice that the practising certificate of Lyle Howe of Halifax, Nova Scotia has been suspended pursuant to Section 37(1) of the Legal Profession Act, effective September 1, 2016 until further notice.”
Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
September 1, 2016, 4 p.m.
On the afternoon of Thursday, September 1, 2016 — the eve of the Labour Day weekend — Lyle Howe was watching from the sidelines at Titans Fitness Academy gym in the Bayers Lake Business Park while his seven-year-son Tacari’s jujitsu teacher put him through his martial-art paces. Howe’s cellphone rang. It was a reporter. She’d just seen the posting on the Nova Scotia Barristers Society website about his suspension. Did he have any comment?
His what? This was the first he’d heard of it.
That’s not to suggest it was the first time the provincial lawyer-regulating organization had lifted Lyle Howe’s licence to practise law. Two years earlier, the bar society had also suspended him without a hearing after he’d been convicted of sexual assault. Howe hadn’t protested. He’d been found guilty of a serious criminal offence, after all, and the society had a duty to protect his clients and the public. (Fifteen months later, after the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial, the society reinstated him, but with conditions.)
Although he’d only been practicing law for six years, Howe seemed to have been in almost continuous troubles with the law, and/or with the legal profession. He’d twice been charged with serious criminal offences and was, at that very moment, in the middle of what would become the longest, most expensive professional misconduct hearing in bar society history.
But, despite even those professional misconduct charges, the society had continued to allow Howe to practise, with various conditions, while his hearings continued. Until today…
If the society was now suspending him again — without asking for his response, or even notifying him— this must be serious, Howe thought.
He racked his brain. Stealing from a trust account? Fabricating a legal document? Those were the kinds of protect-the-public offences for which the society might justifiably unilaterally suspend a lawyer. Howe knew he hadn’t done anything of the sort. Criminal charges? Howe was confident he hadn’t done anything criminal, but of course he had been charged with crimes in the past in situations he believed either were not criminal or simply hadn’t happened. Were the police on their way to arrest him at this very moment?
He panic-called Marjorie Hickey, the lawyer who represented the provincial bar society. Should I get someone to come pick up my son, he asked?
No, no, she said, it’s not that kind of complaint. But she wouldn’t tell him what kind of complaint it was. In fact, to this day, the society has neither formally charged Howe in connection with those particular allegations nor lifted his suspension. Darrel Pink, the society’s executive director, tells me “the matters that resulted in the current suspension remain under investigation.”
So, while Howe prepares to make his final arguments in late March in response to the society’s initial professional misconduct charges against him — charges that could lead to his disbarment — he remains in a kind of legal limbo-hell, his professional and personal reputation in tatters, unable to earn a living as a lawyer.
What’s going on here?
Lyle Howe believes he knows. It is, he says, because he’s black. He freely admits it’s probably more complicated than just that. But he insists it is almost certainly that too.
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