Panel finds Rodgers engaged in professional misconduct

·5 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – It has been three months since the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society hearing regarding charges against Adam Rodgers, former partner in the Port Hawkesbury law firm Boudrot Rodgers, concluded.

The charges sought to define the potential level of knowledge and complicity Rodgers shared with his former law firm partner, Jason Boudrot, in the latter’s defrauding of clients’ trust funds. The hearing panel, in a decision released Tuesday, Jan. 12, found Rodgers had engaged in professional misconduct and had been reckless in regard to his professional responsibility – but had not misappropriated funds or assisted Boudrot in doing so.

“The Panel has concluded that the Society (Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society) has satisfied its burden of establishing on the balance of probabilities that Adam Rodgers has engaged in professional misconduct by being reckless in regard to his professional responsibilities regarding trust funds,” stated the Notice of Decision issued by the Hearing Panel of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society on Jan. 12.

In October of 2018, managing partner Boudrot contacted the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society (NSBS) to report that he had “some issues with his trust accounts,” stated a NSBS hearing committee document in 2019. That led to a suspension of Boudrot’s practicing certificate, a declaration of bankruptcy and, in 2019, the disbarment of Boudrot.

Last August, the NSBS published a notice stating that the society would hold a hearing respecting charges of professional misconduct and professional incompetence against Rodgers.

The hearing, which took place at the beginning of last October, convened to hear submissions and consider evidence regarding the fraudulent dealings with clients’ trust monies managed by Boudrot Rodgers, to determine Rodgers’ role in the matter.

The panel heard and was supplied evidence – in the form of an agreed upon joint book of exhibits – related to three charges of professional misconduct by encouraging or knowingly assisting with fraudulent or dishonest dealings with clients' trust monies and/or professional incompetence.

The panels’ findings state, “We, as a Panel are satisfied that the Society has demonstrated it is more probable than not that Adam Rodgers, allowed Jason Boudrot to misappropriate clients’ trust funds, through his willful blindness and recklessness and thereby failed in his professional obligations.

“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. The Panel is satisfied the Society has demonstrated that it is more probable than not that Adam Rodgers aided Jason Boudrot through his willful blindness and recklessness and thereby failed to preserve and protect clients’ property.”

The conclusion of its 50-page decision states, “In reaching this conclusion the Panel has imputed to Mr. Rodgers’ knowledge of the illegal activities of Mr. Boudrot and that he should have done something about it. The Panel findings are not based on a criminal standard that he aided and abetted Mr. Boudrot, but rather that a lawyer has a very high obligation of trust, as set out in the code of professional conduct and the regulations to properly deal and protect trust funds and Mr. Rodgers breached that obligation.”

Rodgers, who has been vocal in his defense against the charges brought by NSBS, shared his response to the decision with The Journal via email Jan. 13. He wrote, “I am pleased to be exonerated on the main charges that I was somehow a participant in the large-scale theft and misappropriation schemes of my former law partner. It was not easy to fight the powerful Bar Society all on my own, but it was the right thing to do, and most of the Bar Society allegations against me were found by the Panel to be without merit, as I had predicted.

“My conscience was always clear, but it was still satisfying to see it confirmed by the Panel that I did not take anything from anybody, that I did good work as a lawyer for my clients, and that I handled the crisis brought on my former partner in an appropriate manner,” he stated.

Speaking to the finding of misconduct, Rodgers stated, “Where the Panel did make a finding of misconduct, it was to do with relatively minor billing matters, distinct from the main allegations. The Panel agreed that these instances did not result in any client of mine or other third party experiencing any losses and characterized my actions as willful blindness.

“While I disagree with this unusual characterization, I take the matter seriously, and have learned some important lessons from the experience. I also wish to move on from this entire matter and focus my energy on the clients and other people I serve, both as a lawyer and community volunteer. I recognize and accept that lawyers are held to a higher standard and, throughout this difficult time, I have tried my best to act and communicate publicly in ways that would reinforce respect for our justice system and preserve the integrity of the legal profession in Nova Scotia.”

As for the future, Rodgers wrote, “I look forward now to putting this entire ordeal behind me and see what I can do next for the people of my area, and throughout Nova Scotia. I continue to prepare for the next phase of the Desmond Inquiry, which resumes hearings next month, and [I] am considering several potential opportunities after that.”

The panel has 60 days from the time of the decision’s release to determine what sanctions may be applied to Rodgers regarding the findings of the hearing.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal