Lawyer Not Responsible for Costs Where Expert Deceived the Court

GAL & PAL #2jpgThe saga of B.C.’s fraudulent child custody expert is approaching the end of its life cycle with the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s ruling that the lawyer who proffered the tainted expert, cannot be held liable for costs, special or otherwise.

“Expert” Claire Reeves was retained by a mother who alleged that the father of her four children had sexually abused them. She found Ms. Reeves on the internet and was undoubtedly impressed with her resume. Ms. Reeves said she had testified as an expert in 52 cases in the United States alone, and claimed to be a licensed psychologist with a Doctorate in clinical counselling.

After a lengthy trial and the trial judge’s acceptance of Ms. Reeves’ testimony, the children’s unrepresented father was barred from seeing his children. It was only after the father retained counsel that it came to light that Ms. Reeves was not listed in any expert witness database, even in searches as far back as 1980, and only three reported cases could be found that she participated in. In one of those cases, her evidence was described as “unbelievable and not credible”.

It was further established that her post-secondary degrees were from unaccredited “diploma mills” that provide credentials for a fee with no requirement for exams or study. Her doctorate degree came from Ashwood University, it cost $349.00 and advertises as follows:

“This program offers you an opportunity to earn a doctorate’s degree based on your work or life experience, without requiring you to take admission exams, attend classes, or study course books.”

While the court declined to find mother’s lawyer’s conduct in presenting a fraudulent witness to be “reprehensible”, the standard for an order for special costs to paid by the lawyer, the court suggested that a fuller enquiry ought to have been made:

“Nothing in these reasons, however, should be taken as endorsing the conduct of counsel in this case. In our view, common sense dictates that when counsel is presented with an expert report commissioned by a self-represented litigant, and authored by an unknown person located by the self-represented litigant on the Internet, basic inquiries should be made as to the proposed witness’s background and qualifications before they are called to give evidence. It is regrettable that these minimal steps were not taken in this case.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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