Queen's Counsel lawyer suspended after communicating with jurors

Glenn Orris is the third QC lawyer in B.C. to be suspended this year; province has no process to revoke QC designations

QC applications are reviewed by an advisory committee that includes: the Chief Justice of British Columbia and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia | Photo: artisteer / Getty Images

Another lawyer of the province’s Queen’s Counsel has been suspended by the Law Society of B.C. after improperly conversing with potential jurors in a parole-related hearing for a convicted murderer.

Criminal defense lawyer Glenn Orris is the third QC-designated lawyer to be suspended this year, after admitting to the misconduct, according to a consent agreement published Dec. 1 by the society, the legal industry’s self-governing regulator.

Those suspensions come amid a review of the QC protocols, which presently do not include provisions to revoke the designation.

Orris’ three-week suspension is a result of discussions he had with potential jurors waiting outside a courtroom.

Orris was asked questions about the process, which was a hearing to proceed with a “faint hope” parole process for his client.

The Crown counsel lawyer overheard Orris answering questions about the hearing and told him it was not appropriate.

“Mr. Orris advised that it was not something he wanted to do and that he was just answering their questions with information they had already been told or was not in issue,” according to the agreement.

The jurors then became more vocal, prompting further responses from Orris.

“A male member of the jury panel made a comment, in a loud voice, to the effect that ‘He had two friends who had both been convicted of murder, who had been released, and then killed again.’ Believing the comment to be inflammatory and prejudicial to his client and his application, Mr. Orris answered to the effect ‘I don’t have any knowledge of that, sir. Such a thing may have occurred, but it is, in my experience, very rare,’” the society noted.

“Another comment was made by either the same jury panel member or a different male jury panel member to the effect of ‘We should still have the death penalty.’ Believing the comment was a criticism of his client and prejudicial to his application, Mr. Orris responded with words to the effect that he was glad he was working in a justice system that did not have the death penalty,” the agreement said.

The sheriff informed the judge about possible juror ineligibility based on the latter exchange while Crown informed the judge about Orris’ initial conversations.

As a result, the judge discharged the jury panel and adjourned the selection of the remaining jurors, according to the agreement.