Skip to main content

Law Society of B.C. disbars former lawyer after sexual assault conviction

Law courts
Share

A former Nanaimo lawyer has been disbarred for sexual misconduct that occurred when he was practising in Abbotsford in 2018.

In a decision on sanctions issued and posted online last week, a hearing panel concluded that disbarment was "the only appropriate sanction" for Marc Andre Scheirer's "utterly reprehensible" conduct. 

Scheirer was convicted of sexual assault in November 2020. The following March, he was given a suspended sentence and two years of probation.

ASSAULT OCCURRED AT OFFICE

The incident that led to his conviction, which was also the grounds for his disbarment, occurred in February 2018.

According to court documents and the sanctions decision, Scheirer was contacted by a prospective client who was looking for legal advice on getting the terms of her husband's bail varied to allow him to resume cohabitating with her.

The woman – whose name is subject to a publication ban and who is referred to in the sanctions decision only as "X" – met with Scheirer at his office late in the afternoon.

"X showed the respondent some photos with respect to her business," the sanctions decision reads, summarizing the assault.

"He then moved closer to her, putting his head on her chest, rubbing her leg and moving his hand towards her crotch. She tried to stand up; he pushed her down and said, 'Nicer you are to me now, the sooner we get your husband home.'"

The assault lasted for about 60 seconds, according to the decision. X left and told a friend what had happened while on her way home. Later that evening, she called the police and reported the assault.

'EXTREMELY SERIOUS CONDUCT'

Scheirer, who has since changed his name to Marc Andre Eckardt, became a former member of the Law Society of B.C. in June of this year, according to the sanctions decision.

The law society has the authority to impose discipline on former members when it is done in response to misconduct that occurred while they were members.

In this case, the panel noted that the former lawyer in question had been criminally convicted for "extremely serious conduct."

"That the crime was committed against a vulnerable person who sought him out to provide legal advice makes the conduct even more egregious," the decision reads.

"A potential client came to see him in a vulnerable state looking for professional assistance. Instead, the Respondent preyed on the victim, X, and intimated that his assistance was dependent on her cooperation with his sexual advances."

According to the decision, the experience "had a devastating impact" on X, leaving her fearful of lawyers and other professionals with whom there is a power imbalance.

"For the public to have confidence in the legal profession, and confidence in the ability of the profession to govern itself, conduct such as this must attract disciplinary action that reflects how serious and reprehensible this conduct is," the decision reads.

PAST DISCIPLINE FOR SIMILAR MISCONDUCT

Another factor in the panel's decision was what it described as Scheirer's "very concerning professional conduct record," which includes a six-month suspension imposed in November 2022 for behaviour similar to that which he directed toward X.

In that instance, which occurred in November 2018 but did not result in any criminal charges, Scheirer met with a client at his home, offered her a martini, which she declined, made one for himself and changed into shorts and an unbuttoned shirt.

He sat in close proximity to the client on the couch and put his arm behind her, leaving her "uncomfortable and offended," according to the decision.

In addition to his six-month suspension for that misconduct, Scheirer was ordered to pay more than $24,000 in costs to the law society.

"This is not the only time that the respondent has engaged in predatory behavior towards a female client," the latest decision reads.

"As the protection of the public is the objective of lawyer discipline, this panel must consider the respondent’s past conduct record as a significantly aggravating factor."

FAILURE TO ACKNOWLEDGE MISCONDUCT

Also aggravating was the fact that Scheirer did not acknowledge any misconduct regarding X.

"Even though the respondent had recently been suspended for predatory conduct towards a female client, at the facts and determination hearing of this matter the respondent not only failed to acknowledge his misconduct (despite his criminal conviction), he attempted to introduce evidence that the sexual assault did not occur," the decision reads.

The panel went on to note that Scheirer had been presented with "several opportunities" to acknowledge his misconduct or its impact on the victim and the legal profession, but had not done so.

"His lack of acknowledgment raises concerns about the possibility of his rehabilitation," the decision reads.

Taking all of this into account, the panel concluded that disbarment was "the only appropriate sanction" in the case.

It declined, however, to order Scheirer to pay $13,732.50 in costs, citing the former lawyer's submissions about ongoing medical issues and "his dire financial circumstances," including existing debt and limited income. 

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

What's being said about the new online harms bill?

Now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's sweeping online harms legislation is before Parliament, allowing key stakeholders, major platforms, and Canadians with direct personal experience with abuse to dig in and see what's being proposed, reaction is streaming in. CTVNews.ca has rounded up reaction, and here's how Bill C-63 is going over.

Stay Connected