BC lawyer engaged in ‘creepy uncle’ routine suspended for six weeks

Admissions of Scott Thomas Johnston, a lawyer at CBM Lawyers LLP, outlined in a recent decision of a panel of the Law Society of B.C. tribunal hearing division

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A partner in a Langley law firm who admitted he sexually harassed two female subordinates when he engaged in what he called his “creepy uncle routine” has been suspended for six weeks.

The admissions of Scott Thomas Johnston, a lawyer at CBM Lawyers LLP, were outlined in a recent decision of a panel of the Law Society of B.C. tribunal hearing division.

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During an event put on by the firm at a Vancouver restaurant on June 20, 2020, Johnston performed what he termed his “creepy uncle routine” with a female associate lawyer he had been mentoring. About 40 of the 50 staff and lawyers who worked at the firm were attending the event.

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At the restaurant, Johnston peered from around a corner, staring with a “creepy” expression on his face and appeared at the associate lawyer’s table four times during the event.

Johnston, who had been drinking and felt his routine was humorous, at one point held her close, by the arm, and touched her stomach with his other hand.

He told her that he thought they would make a really good baby together and that she would not have to worry about anything.

During the same event, Johnston stood behind a female legal assistant while she was seated at a table, leaned over the back of her chair and in doing so, brought his head and upper body quite close to her so that they almost touched and in doing so, made her feel uncomfortable.

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While they were on a bus later, returning from the event, he moved his hand toward her head with the legal assistant pushing his hand away and telling him not to touch her head.

Johnston responded by saying words to the effect of “It’s not like I made this motion,” while making a downward gesture with his hand, miming a sexually suggestive act involving a head moving towards his crotch.

The Langley lawyer, who was called to the bar in 2001 and currently practises primarily in the areas of business and real estate law, later apologized for his actions.

“My behaviour was unacceptable and I am disappointed in myself,” he said. “I recognize that my conduct at the event fell short of the reasonable expectations of the profession and the public. I did not intend to upset (the two women), but I recognize that they were upset by my behaviour that evening and I apologize for that.”

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Johnston said that since the incident he has taken “mindful” steps to ensure that such conduct is not repeated.

The associate lawyer, who also filed a workplace bullying and harassment report as well as a discrimination complaint, resigned about four months after the event.

Johnston was ordered suspended for six weeks and must also pay $2,500 in legal costs.


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