A can of Canada Dry ginger ale opens with a snap and hiss, falling into a white mug with a black trim. Lyle Howe takes a quick gulp as the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) prepares to ask him a new round of questions. He wears a black suit, broken only by a set of bright, striped socks.
Howe wipes his forehead, perspiring visibly during the Monday iteration of his hearing at the Hampton Inn. The case against Howe has become the NSBS’s longest hearing to date, surpassing a previous record of 50 days.
Howe is an African-Nova Scotian lawyer accused of professional misconduct and professional incompetence; his license has been suspended since September.
The hearing began in December 2015 and has been spread out over the course of several months. As of Tuesday, it hit its 58th day, and is expected to continue into March. The NSBS’s 2016/17 business plan says that “in previous years, it was unusual to have more than five days of hearings.” However, the plan also describes longer hearings as part of “a national trend.”
Howe made headlines after being convicted of sexual assault in a 2014 trial, before it was overturned in September 2015. Later that year, the NSBS began the hearing after a series of complaints filed against Howe between 2011 and 2014 suggested he violated seven separate professional regulations. They address a variety of claims, including that he engaged in conflicts of interest.
The actions of the NSBS were delayed due to Howe’s personal involvement in the criminal trial, said Darrel Pink, the NSBS executive director, in an email. That trial stemmed from the sexual assault allegations made against him in 2012.
“To date, the Society has spent more than $900,000 in all matters relating to Mr. Howe,” Pink writes. “This includes the various practice supports that were put in place, the reviews of his practice, two receiverships and the costs of the investigation and the hearing.”
This expense, which has cumulated since 2011, results in a net loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and more will be spent for future hearing dates. Pink says that there is no problem with the expense as it can be paid off by reserved funds. Regardless, he adds, it doesn’t need to be paid all at once.
During his hearing, Howe has called into question the proportionality of the barristers’ society’s response to allegations against him. Throughout it and through his previous trial, Howe has repeatedly claimed he is being unfairly treated and has faced scrutiny due to his race.
Howe’s hearing is expected to continue on March 21.