Alberta’s Human Rights Commission is set to hear a lawyer’s $10 million lawsuit against the Bar Association

A Calgary attorney is suing the Alberta Bar Association before the provincial human rights commission, alleging a “bizarre pattern of behavior” that amounted to discrimination and eventually forced him out of the profession.

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A complaint filed in December 2020 by Stephen Dugandzic alleges discrimination based on physical and mental disabilities and seeks more than $10 million in lost income, damages, and medical and psychological treatment costs. The hearings are scheduled to begin on May 15.

Dugandzic’s attorney, Kathryn Marshall, told Postmedia it was a man who needed housing who asked for it but was turned down.

“The course and behavior and pattern that he was subjected to over the course of many years devastated his life,” Marshall said.

“He should be out there practicing law and helping people, but instead he’s going to be facing a lawsuit against the bar in a few months.”

Dugandzic suffered severe traumatic brain injuries in 2013 before becoming a member of the Law Society of Alberta in 2014, and his complaint alleges that the society deliberately worsened his health.

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“The Bar Association’s conduct was designed to aggravate and aggravate Dugandzic’s health and ruin his once-promising legal career by ousting him from the legal profession entirely,” the complaint reads.

The allegations were neither examined nor proven in a court hearing.

In response to Postmedia’s request for comment, Bar Association spokeswoman Colleen Brown said, “We do not comment on matters before the Human Rights Commission or the courts.”

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Not all complaints by the Human Rights Commission reach a hearing. Dugandzic’s complaint was initially dismissed by the Director of the Commission, but after an examination it was sent for a hearing.

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In a review motion, the Bar Association argued that Dugandzic’s symptoms are separate and independent from the behavior at issue in the complaints against him and that there was insufficient evidence to establish a link between his disability and alleged adverse effects .

Marshall said the case could contribute to a public conversation about professional regulators and their role, highlight the need to address the mental health issues faced by many attorneys and combat the stigma surrounding them.

“I think this case will set a precedent. I’m not aware of any other case like this going against a bar,” Marshall said.

In 2017, Dugandzic said he had filed a Law Society of Alberta complaint against the law firm Taylor Janis LLP, which was dismissed.

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The lawsuit says there were seven separate professional complaints by other members of the Bar against Dugandzic between October 2018 and May 2022, but Marshall said none resulted in findings of misconduct or professional charges and none were brought to a society hearing.

The complaint alleges the society dragged on for almost four years, which ultimately forced Dugandzic to retire from the practice.

“I can’t understand why this has gone on for years,” said Marshall, who described the ongoing investigation as “no man’s land.”

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Dugandzic was suspended from practice on July 3, 2020 for failing to pay his professional liability insurance levy in 2020-2021. Marshall said her client was forced to take time off for medical reasons in 2020, but once a member comes back from time off and pays the fee, they’re usually automatically reinstated.

Dugandzic said his request for reinstatement in 2021 was denied by the bar association.

In his complaint to the Commission, Dugandzic describes being “subject to a complex web of lies, human rights abuses, fraud, conflicts of interest, corruption, contempt, bad faith, stigma, oppression, intrigue, abuse of procedure and willful mistreatment by an unaccountable and unaudited bar of attorneys.” Alberta.”