Lyle Howe's fate now in hands of panel as disciplinary hearing ends

After more than 60 days and 10,000 pages of transcripts, the longest-ever Nova Scotia Barristers' Society disciplinary hearing has ended and the fate of the lawyer at the centre of it is now in the hands of a three-member panel.

Halifax defence lawyer Lyle Howe is accused of professional misconduct and professional incompetence, but has argued he's been treated with hyper-vigilance by the barristers' society because he's black.

In his final remarks at the hearing, he told the panel Wednesday that if this were the 1930s, it would be easier to spot the "smoking gun" of racism. But Howe said today, people are smarter and more subtle in their racism. He said they may not use the n-word, but use other words and actions to convey the same meaning.

Howe said that is the lens through which the panel must view the society's investigation of his case. He said there may not have been overt racism, but he was treated in a way that white lawyers are not.

Howe argued the society's handling of his case breached his rights under the charter.

Howe's actions 'not like other lawyers'

It was an accusation disputed Wednesday by lawyers for the society.

"The actions of Mr. Howe were not like other lawyers," society lawyer Marjorie Hickey said in her closing arguments.

Hickey said when Howe is cornered he'll "say what needs to be said" to advance his case. She said Howe wasn't singled out because of hyper-vigilance, but rather because of mounting complaints about him from judges, other lawyers and clients.

With the conclusion of evidence and arguments, the panel now has 60 business days to distill everything it's heard and read into a final report.

That would put the deadline in mid-July, although panelists raised the possibility of needing more time. If the panel finds the society has proven any of its allegations against Howe, there would have to be a penalty phase. The most serious penalty would be disbarment.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from the hearing.