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B.C. lawyer disbarred for public mischief, evidence fabrication convictions

Malcolm Zoraik was convicted of public mischief in 2010 after he forged a letter to make it look like a member of the jury in a case he lost had been bribed.

Christopher S. Reed/iStockphoto

A lawyer found guilty of leaving behind an anonymous note pretending to be the husband of a supposedly bribed juror will never practise law in British Columbia again.

The Law Society of B.C. concluded in a ruling released Monday that Malcolm Zoraik's behaviour in 2009 means he can no longer be trusted as a lawyer.

"Lawyers are of course in a position of trust in relation to their clients. Of necessity they are also. . . in a position of trust in relation to the court and to the administration of justice as a whole," the society said.

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"For such a system to work, and for the public to have confidence that it is working properly, lawyers must uphold the law and its proper administration. Failure to do so subverts public confidence in the judicial system."

Zoraik was found guilty in a provincial court in 2010 of writing a letter that falsely alleged jury tampering in a B.C. Supreme Court case he lost in Victoria.

A year earlier, Zoraik defended a client who was suing for damages after a car accident.

After only 20 minutes, jurors came back with a verdict of no liability.

Zoraik applied to the judge not to enter the judgment, arguing they hadn't taken long enough to fully consider the case. His application was put over.

But before it could be heard, a white envelope containing a letter purporting to be from the husband of an unidentified juror was found on a counter in a publicly accessible space used for searching court files.

The letter said his wife had been "offered money for her vote in the court" and the circumstances outlined in the letter matched the case Zoraik had defended.

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Zoraik was charged and convicted of public mischief and fabricating evidence, with the judge concluding Zoraik "manufactured a letter which he knew was likely to become evidence before a court, and indeed sought to have a court rely upon that manufactured evidence."

Zoraik appealed the conviction, but lost.

The law society's disciplinary committee then carried out its own investigation and recommended no hearing should be held and the law society's benchers — its board of governors — should decide whether Zoraik should be suspended or disbarred.

The society said in a news release the decision to impose the penalty without a hearing is unusual. Though the provision has been around for 25 years, it has not been used.

The committee noted "the seriousness of Zoraik's misconduct and the significant threat it presented to public confidence in the legal profession and justice system."

Zoraik had not worked as a lawyer since 2010.

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He had argued the decision to discipline him without a hearing was wrong and he urged the benchers, unsuccessfully, to reconsider.

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