SCC Affirms Law Society's Authority To Suspend Lawyers For Failing To Comply With CPD Requirements

In Green v. Law Society of Manitoba (Green), a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) held that the Law Society of Manitoba (Law Society) has the authority to suspend lawyers who fail to comply with the Law Society's mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) program without providing the lawyer with an automatic hearing or right of appeal. In so deciding, the SCC made important comments about administrative law and the deference owed to law societies as they discharge their statutory mandates in the public interest.


Like other law societies, the Law Society of Manitoba requires practicing lawyers to complete 12 hours of CPD per year. If a lawyer fails to comply with this requirement, the Law Society's CEO "may" send a letter to the lawyer advising him or her of the requirement and if the lawyer fails to comply within 60 days, he or she is "automatically suspended from practising law until such time as the requirements have been met", according to the Rules of the Law Society of Manitoba (Rules). In contrast to the procedure applicable to an investigation into professional misconduct or incompetence, the Rules regarding CPD program compliance do not provide for a range of lesser sanctions or certain procedural safeguards such as a hearing or right of appeal.

The appellant, Sidney Green, has been a member of the Law Society for 60 years. He did not report any CPD activities for 2012 or 2013. The CEO sent Mr. Green a letter notifying him that he would be suspended from practising law if he did not comply with the CPD requirements within 60 days. In response, Mr. Green applied to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench for declaratory relief, challenging the Law Society's authority to suspend him. The Court of Queen's Bench dismissed Mr. Green's application and the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.


The SCC unanimously concluded that the Law Society has the authority to suspend a lawyer for failing to comply with CPD requirements "in light of the importance of CPD programs and the Law Society's broad rule-making authority over the maintenance of educational standards". However, the SCC split on whether the Rules authorizing the suspension were reasonable in light of the fact that they did not explicitly provide procedural safeguards.

Writing for the majority, Justice R. Wagner dismissed the appeal, holding that it was reasonable for the Rules to allow for the suspension of lawyers without explicitly...

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