The Law Society of B.C. has suspended Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko for two months after he admitted to professional misconduct.
This is not the prominent lawyer’s first brush with misconduct.
On Tuesday, the society stated Doroshenko admitted to misappropriating or improperly withdrawing $44,353.19 in client trust funds and failing to identify the shortage to the society, the regulator of the province’s legal profession. Doroshenko also failed to maintain sufficient funds in his trust accounts and failed to maintain proper accounting records.
“Doroshenko admitted he failed to properly supervise his staff and no longer employs the individuals involved. He was also suffering from a concussion and other significant health issues due to an accident during that time, which affected his ability to function and work. No clients were harmed, and all funds were subsequently corrected or replaced.”
Doroshenko admitted his errors, said the society, which noted he has no prior professional misconduct record.
However, a former articling employee successfully sued Doroshenko in 2019 for wrongful dismissal and last month his own appeal backfired, resulting in an even stiffer penalty against him and his law firm Acumen Law Corporation, which specializes in the Motor Vehicle Act.
On May 10, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld that Doroshenko — who, along with associate Kyla Lee is frequently sourced in media stories and appears regularly on radio and TV — mistreated articling student Melissa Ojanen (also known as Melissa Dominato).
Initially, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery ruled that Doroshenko’s firm must pay Ojanen $50,000 in aggravated damages in addition to $18,934 in ordinary damages.
But Court of Appeal Justice Richard Goepel not only dismissed Doroshenko’s appeal, but increased the ordinary damages to $100,000 while also awarding punitive damages of $25,000. Doronshenko’s bill for “bullying” Ojanen went from $68,934 to $193,934.
“The conduct described by the trial judge can properly be described in the language of Whiten as ‘high-handed, malicious, arbitrary or highly reprehensible misconduct that departs to a marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour.’ The awards of general and aggravated damages are not sufficient to achieve the goals of denunciation, deterrence and retribution but must be taken into account in determining the appropriate award,” stated Goepel.
Doroshenko was appointed to the Queen’s Counsel in 2017. Only 7% of practising B.C. lawyers can be awarded the designation of QC, at any given time (there are 490 QCs out of approximately 13,125 practising members of the bar, according to the B.C. Attorney General).
To obtain a “Q.C.” designation, the B.C. Attorney General’s website states a lawyer must “demonstrate professional integrity, good character and excellence in the practice of law.” Such excellence could be determined by several conditions such as being a gifted practitioner, demonstrating leadership and working in the field of legal education.
It’s unclear if a suspended lawyer can maintain such a designation.