Former Victoria lawyer, council candidate, disciplined for sexual harassment of client

Former Victoria lawyer, council candidate, disciplined for sexual harassment of client
The Victoria courthouse. File photo.

A former Victoria lawyer and council candidate has been disciplined by the Law Society of British Columbia Tribunal for sexual harassment of a client.

William James Heflin, who ran for Victoria council in the 2020 byelection as Bill Heflin, has been fined $4,348.57 and he is suspended from practicing law for six months. Since Heflin is not a current member of the Law Society of B.C., if he files to be reinstated, his suspension will start the first business day after his reinstatement.

Heflin was the legal counsel for a woman, identified as X, for family law matters for child and spousal support.

According to the tribunal decision, on or around October 1, 2020, Heflin and X met at a meeting room in the Victoria court house, so Heflin could tell her that he could no longer act as her legal counsel.

Heflin told X his reasonings were based on his thoughts of retirement, plans to run for city council, and his interest in a sexual relationship with her.

After he told her this, Heflin had her sign a Notice of Intention to Act in Person, then left the room to file the notice with the registry.

When he was out of the room, X turned on the recorder on her phone. Heflin then returned to the room and said “Okay, well, I’m not your lawyer anymore.” X said, “You’re not?” and Heflin replied, “Now I can do what I want.”

He then went over to her and kissed her. X crossed her arms and turned her head away from him.

Heflin then moved closer to her and straddled her and kissed her again and touched her breast. He then said “just give me a hug” and hugged X, and then kissed her a third time.

After the third kiss, Heflin said “If you don’t stop that we will never get out of here,” which he alleges is because X touched his penis, which she denies. The tribunal made no finding on this matter.

The tribunal decision notes that at no point did X expressly consent to Heflin’s advances. Additionally, the tribunal says X repeatedly tried to steer the conversation back to her case, and Heflin repeatedly continued to talk about an affair.

After this, Heflin then called her five times over two months, leaving voicemails, and visited her home.

“The Respondent [Heflin] deserted his client at a time when she needed him most. He put his own interests ahead of hers by leaving her without legal representation in order to pursue his own sexual interests,” the tribunal decision says.

“He harassed and assaulted a client who was in a vulnerable state, in circumstances where the power dynamic was highly imbalanced. Although he has admitted his actions, he refuses to acknowledge the impropriety of them.”

The tribunal found that Heflin did not have X’s consent, and his assertion of “implied consent” is not a defence of his actions.

Since the panel found the actions amounted to sexual harassment, it is not necessary to further determine if the actions amount to sexual assault.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!