Lawyer suspended, charged
Live-in nannies complain about treatmentBy Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press, May 31, 2009.
Reproduced with permission.
A Winnipeg immigration lawyer has been suspended for six months and fined $25,000 after a live-in nanny complained he hired her out to third parties and put her application for immigration at risk.
A copy of the Law Society of Manitoba discipline committee report said David Davis pleaded guilty in March to four counts of professional misconduct for paying a referral fee to a non-lawyer, two counts of conflict of interest, and failure to act with integrity by charging fees that were not fully disclosed, fair and reasonable.
Davis was fined $25,000 to be paid in $1,000 monthly instalments, and is suspended from practising law for six months starting June 1.
At a forum on the exploitation of migrant workers Saturday, MLA Flor Marcelino said she learned of Davis’s suspension Friday from one of her constituents.
“I know several of his clients,” said Marcelino, whose constituency office helps people having problems with their immigration applications.
Davis’s suspension follows a law society hearing in March after complaints were made by a live-in nanny from the Philippines who sued Davis. In a civil suit filed in 2007, she said the immigration lawyer hired her out to third parties but never paid her – and put her immigration status at risk.
The nanny agreed to an out-of-court settlement that included a confidentiality clause. Her original statement of claim said she hired Davis in January of 2004 to help her obtain a work permit under Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program. Through the program, she was hoping to apply for permanent resident status for herself, her husband and two children in the Philippines.
She obtained a work permit in April 2005 and went to work for Davis as a live-in caregiver to his two children for $1,250 a month for a 40-hour work week until December 2006.
She claimed Davis paid her less than that amount, and that she was required to work unpaid overtime. She said Davis also arranged for her to work for third parties and didn’t pay her. Working for the third parties put her immigration application at risk because it’s in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, her claim said.
The citizen of the Philippines said Davis failed in his duty as her lawyer to advise her properly, and that his role as her employer and lawyer was a conflict from the beginning.
The Winnipeg lawyer’s statement of defence said a third party retained him as an immigration lawyer to provide limited services to the nanny. He had no responsibility to protect or ensure her immigration status, the court document said. Davis denied arranging for the nanny to do any unauthorized work for third parties.
Any services she allegedly provided for third parties were of her own accord “knowing full well the risks and consequences, if any,” his statement of defence said.
Reached by phone Saturday night, Davis declined to comment.
In December, he is to go on trial for complaints made by another live-in nanny.
Davis was charged last spring by the Canada Border Services Agency for employing Adelaida Cruspe Perena, a Philippines national, in 2007 in a capacity for which she was not authorized.
He faces a second charge of knowingly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to her employment, according to information filed in provincial court.
The maximum penalty for a conviction under the first charge is a $50,000 fine and a two-year prison sentence. A guilty verdict concerning the latter charge could lead to fine of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.
Davis’s misconduct precedes the recent furore over allegations that MP Ruby Dhalla, a former Winnipegger, mistreated live-in caregivers hired to look after her mother.
Allan Fineblit, chief executive officer of the Law Society of Manitoba, confirmed that Davis’s suspension is “in relation to the matters involving nannies that were also the subject of charges before the courts.”