Lawyer wins $100,000 from the Law Society of British Columbia

Peter Mokua Gichuru, a Vancouver lawyer, was awarded $100,000 dollars by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for disability discrimination by the Law Society of B.C..

In 2002, Gichuru suffered from depression, and declared that he has a mental illness in his application to join the Law Society as an articling student. He subsequently had to undergo a series of psychiatric assessments, and it took ten months for him to get called to the bar.

The question on the application asked: "Have you ever been treated for schizophrenia, paranoia, or a mood disorder described as a major affective illness, bipolar mood disorder, or manic depressive illness?" The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decided that the question was inappropriate and ruled that the Law Society must pay Gichuru about $100,000 in compensation.

B.C. Law Society spokesperson Lesley Pritchard said that the Society will not make any specific comments on the ruling until it had fully reviewed the decision, but clarified that the question on the application has since been changed.

Update 7/21/2011 5:38pm: the Law Society issued a press release on Tuesday, major points below:

  • The Law Society accepts the determination and will not appeal.
  • Since the 2009 decision, the Law Society has already reformulated the application question and revised its policies for articled students and lawyers to comply with the Human Rights Code.
  • Law Society President Gavin Hume commented that “Any medical condition that would render someone incapable of practising law competently puts clients’ interests at risk. However, the Law Society recognizes that everyone experiences pressures in life and responds to those pressures differently. Applicants may be quite capable of practising law competently in spite of any past medical condition.”

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