Ottawa lawyer James Bowie suspended from practicing law indefinitely

The suspension is unrelated to the investigation by the Law Society of Ontario into an alleged legal services-for-sex scandal.

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Ottawa lawyer James Bowie, under investigation by the Law Society of Ontario for an alleged legal services-for-sex scandal, has been suspended from practicing law indefinitely after he failed to co-operate in three unrelated cases.

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Born in 1983, the sole practitioner was suspended Friday for professional misconduct in the unrelated cases. Law Society Tribunal Chair Murray Chitra ordered Bowie to cease practicing law immediately until he answers fully and appropriately to the complaints. (Some former clients complained about crummy service, lousy communication and that he ghosted them when they demanded a refund.)

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Bowie also practiced law while under suspension in 2022. Bowie had multiple short-term administrative suspensions, according to an affidavit filed by a law-society investigator.

At the tribunal on Friday, Ottawa lawyer Kathleen Kealey portrayed her client, Bowie, as a victim of the pandemic who suffered professionally and personally. Bowie’s very limited legal practice has suffered and he’s under medical care, Kealey told the tribunal.

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Bowie is remorseful and intends to finally co-operate with the law society’s investigations. Kealey also said that Bowie is passionate about the law and his penalty for professional misconduct will have a significant impact.

Bowie spoke briefly at the hearing, saying: “I wish to apologize for taking up the tribunal’s time.”

Bowie also said Kealey is a fine lawyer and a good friend.

In the joint position, authorized by the chair, Bowie accepted responsibility for professional misconduct and will be suspended indefinitely until he co-operates with the investigations. If he responds in a way that is considered appropriate and proper by the law-society tribunal, he will then be suspended for one month. The indefinite suspension is designed as an incentive for him to start playing ball with the law society, like every lawyer in Ontario is required to do.

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In the penalty phase of Friday’s hearing, law society lawyer Chad Skinner told the tribunal chair the sanction is warranted in order to maintain public confidence in the legal profession.

Chair Chitra signed off on the joint position and ordered Bowie to pay $5,000 in legal costs. He has one year to pay.

While those complaints have been addressed at a disciplinary hearing, Bowie is now waiting for the results of another law society investigation.

Only this time, it’s not about poor service, but rather disturbing allegations that Bowie offered legal services-for-sex, invited the client to crush lines of cocaine at his place in the Glebe and then sent her an unsolicited picture of his penis.

The woman has since retained criminal law specialist Michael Spratt, who filed the complaint to the law society on her behalf, as reported in this newspaper earlier this month. The complaint to the law society included attachments of Snapchat messages between Bowie and his client at the time and a screenshot of the unsolicited image.

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In a cover letter attached to the law society complaint, Spratt said: “(The complainant) is very upset and traumatized over the absolutely disgusting conduct of Mr. Bowie.

“These predatory acts violate multiple rules of professional conduct and were deeply harmful and offensive,” Spratt wrote to the law society. “(She) is fearful, given Mr. Bowie’s profile, about retribution.”

Bowie has yet to file a response to the law society’s latest investigation, but an hour and a half after this newspaper reported on it last week, Bowie went live on the social platform Discord to defend himself. Bowie publicly dismissed his former client as a broke, single mom.

Bowie went on to say his former client fabricated the allegations to avoid paying her bill.

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Bowie also acknowledged he’s under investigation by the law society, and said: “I’ve got to give a written answer to the law society explaining all this, and they will conduct their investigation, and decide what they want to do.

“In the meantime, everyone’s mad at me, and I’m losing friends,” Bowie said online.

On the Discord social platform, Bowie referenced the Snapchat messages in question. He said he was merely flirting with his client and also detailed his theory about the allegations.

“Clearly what happened here, is in order to not pay her bill, she tells (Ottawa lawyer Michael) Spratt some sob story,” Bowie said.

While Bowie took to the social platform to defend himself, he has yet to respond to this newspaper after several requests for comment.

When he defended himself online, Bowie said the unrelated cases were boring bookkeeping issues. He said he took too long to provide documents to law society investigators because he was, “frankly, on the wrong meds.”

(Bowie says he suffers from “long Covid”, according to tribunal records.)

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