The Law Society of Manitoba has been ordered to investigate a professional misconduct complaint against Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober for comments he made about women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Peter Nygard.
The law society initially dismissed the complaint because the complainant, Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman, had no connection to the case.
Warman filed a complaint in June after reading a CBC News article which quoted Prober as saying a woman who accused his client, Peter Nygard, of rape was “a purported actress who is now playing another role” and had “jumped on the perceived money train.”
Prober called another alleged sex assault victim “probably another complainant who has been paid for false evidence.”
Warman appealed the decision to dismiss his complaint, and the Manitoba law society’s complaints review commissioner ordered the investigation.
“They had not bothered to conduct even the least investigation into it,” Warman said in a phone interview with CBC News.
Fifty-seven women have filed a civil class-action lawsuit in New York against Nygard, claiming they were raped or sexually assaulted. Some of them allege they were assaulted when they were just 14 or 15 years old.
The lawsuit was put on hold in August after the U.S. government requested a stay of proceedings.
Nygard denies all allegations against him and claims his former neighbour in the Bahamas — billionaire Louis Bacon, who Nygard has been feuding with for years — is paying the women to make up allegations as part of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation and business.
In a Sept. 8 letter to Warman, Manitoba law society complaints review commissioner Drew Perry said, “while a lawyer is permitted to make the same type statements in public as he/she would make in court, I agree that the statements attributed to Mr. Prober are concerning, especially in the MeToo era of shifting expectations.”
He added that “The only way that I have to take the matter further, and in the process obtain his explanation for his alleged comments, is to order an investigation. I am now doing that.”
One of the women in the class-action lawsuit told CBC News she came forward in part because of Prober’s comments in the media about the other alleged victims.
Warman says that alone should have been reason enough for the law society to investigate his complaint.
The society, Warman says, is in the “unique position to say to a member of the profession that engaging in that kind of conduct is not only subject to investigation by us as the law society, but it’s also questionable because it raises the issue of whether those kinds of comments in and of themselves are spawning further litigation.”