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Disciplinary panel finds former Port Hawkesbury-based lawyer guilty of professional misconduct

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A Nova Scotia Barristers Society disciplinary panel has found a former Port Hawkesbury-based lawyer guilty of professional misconduct in being “deliberately ignorant” of his former law partner’s activities. STOCK IMAGE
SYDNEY, N.S. —

A Nova Scotia Barristers Society disciplinary panel has found a former Port Hawkesbury-based lawyer guilty of professional misconduct in being “deliberately ignorant” of his former law partner’s activities.

Adam Rodgers was facing three counts of professional misconduct and professional incompetence in connection with his former law firm, Boudrot Rodgers Law Inc. He was found guilty on one count.

The firm was disbanded in December 2018 after Jason Boudrot admitted to the society he had misappropriated trust fund monies. Boudrot was later disbarred by the society and continues to be the focus of a police investigation.

“The panel is satisfied by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Rodgers was deliberately ignorant of the activities of Mr. Boudrot. The panel is satisfied that Mr. Rodgers did not deliberately nor actively misappropriate funds nor assist Mr. Boudrot in doing so,” states the panel, in a decision released from Halifax this week.

The panel concluded that it was more probable that Rodgers aided Boudrot through willful blindness and recklessness and failed to preserve and protect clients’ property.

The three-member disciplinary panel was chaired by Amherst lawyer Douglas Shatford. Sydney-based lawyer Gail Rudderham Chernin and Halifax resident Moka Case were also panel members.

The Nova Scotia Barristers Society disciplinary panel has found former Port Hawkesbury-based lawyer Adam Rodgers guilty of professional misconduct. CONTRIBUTED
The Nova Scotia Barristers Society disciplinary panel has found former Port Hawkesbury-based lawyer Adam Rodgers guilty of professional misconduct. CONTRIBUTED

Evidence presented during a two-day hearing last October indicated that Boudrot was responsible for the financial management of the firm while Rodgers was described as being the public face of the firm in that he did more court work, attended functions in the communities, bar society events, business events and handled the firm’s social media.

In October 2018, an associate of the firm reported that a significant amount of money — $290,000 — was missing from a trust account.

In confronting Boudrot, he admitted to misappropriating the money and reported the incident to the society. He indicated there were at least two other clients from whom he had withdrawn trust account funds.

According to the panel decision, the barristers society may be exposed to just over $1 million relating to 80 unusual matters at Boudrot Rodgers Law Inc. identified as requiring further review.

In reviewing the evidence from the hearing, the panel noted Boudrot would instruct the firm’s accountant and bookkeeper which clients to bill, what to put on the bill and how much to bill the client. The majority of the clients billed were Boudrot's but some were also clients of Rodgers.

An external audit of the firm showed that the creation of the invoices allowed money to be transferred from trust accounts to the firm’s general account which was generally used towards operations of the firm.

On many occasions, according to the decision, Boudrot would instruct that clients be billed before legal services were provided.

“Whether Mr. Rodgers was aware of what Mr. Boudrot was doing with respect to his clients is unclear in the evidence. What can be said is that Mr. Rodgers was aware that Mr. Boudrot had been creating invoices and taking money from trust in relation to his clients and whether he was aware that this had been disclosed to his clients, is not clear,” stated the panel.

Rodgers contended before the panel that the trust withdrawals were inadvertent, not malicious or slightly premature arguing further that no one got hurt because he reconciled the entries after the fact to ensure clients did not pay more than what was agreed.

The panel concluded that Rodgers had actual knowledge of Boudrot misappropriating his clients’ retainers and was therefore guilty of professional misconduct in failing to report the issue to the society.

“It is clear that Mr. Rodgers did not actively and knowingly directly assist Mr. Boudrot in the massive misappropriation of trust funds,” stated the panel, adding his fault was that he knew what Boudrot was doing but failed to report such actions.

Rodgers continues to practise law in establishing a private practice in Antigonish.

In a comment to another media outlet, Rodgers said he was pleased the panel found he did not misappropriate any client funds and that he did do good work for his clients.

The panel’s decision is dated Jan. 12 and it must now meet within 60 days to determine the nature of punishment.

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