Victim of B.C. lawyer's assault still waiting for professional discipline, years after guilty plea

·5 min read
Lawyer Michael Ranspot faces allegations of professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer. (Black Press Media - image credit)
Lawyer Michael Ranspot faces allegations of professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer. (Black Press Media - image credit)

Nearly five years after West Vancouver lawyer Michael Murph Ranspot pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm against a former girlfriend, his victim is still waiting to see if the Law Society of B.C. will take any disciplinary action.

"Honestly, I just can't get my head around it," she told CBC News. "I'm not really understanding why it's taken this long. I've had different thoughts about it — mainly that this person has got power because of who he is, and maybe that's one of the reasons."

CBC is not naming the woman, who is referred to by the initials CC in law society proceedings.

She filed a complaint against Ranspot with the law society after he beat her up in December 2015, court documents show. The law society issued a citation against him in 2017, alleging he had committed professional misconduct and conduct unbecoming a lawyer by assaulting CC as well as improperly representing her in divorce proceedings while they were romantically involved.

She thought things were coming close to a resolution two years ago, when the law society upheld those allegations after a hearing on the case. But then Ranspot argued his lawyer at the time hadn't informed him about the hearing, and in September the law society agreed to set aside the earlier decision and schedule a new hearing "on the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice."

"I still really don't understand how something like that could happen," CC said.

She explained that she arrived in Canada as a refugee when she was 10 years old, fleeing a series of military coups in South America.

"It's been quite a process for me trying to understand all this," she said. "I come from a country where they don't really respect our rights, and I always believed here in Canada we do."

Michael Murph Ranspot faces a second Law Society of B.C. hearing over his assault of a former girlfriend and allegations he represented her in court while they were dating.
Michael Murph Ranspot faces a second Law Society of B.C. hearing over his assault of a former girlfriend and allegations he represented her in court while they were dating.(Manjula Dufresne/CBC )

A new hearing on the matter is set to begin Monday. If the allegations are upheld again, the law society will still need to decide on discipline, either through yet another hearing or an agreement with Ranspot.

Law society spokesperson Vinnie Yuen acknowledged CC's frustrations, and agreed that the disciplinary process in this case has been "unusual."

"We have communicated with her throughout the process and expressed our regret for the length of the discipline process," Yuen wrote in an email.

Ranspot's lawyer, Patrick Lewis, declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate before the hearing begins.

'Punching me with both fists'

According to the September 2020 decision to hold a new hearing, Ranspot "did not contest the allegations of conduct unbecoming or professional misconduct, but indicated that he had hoped to arrive at a 'consent resolution' in terms of disciplinary action."

When Ranspot pleaded guilty to the assault in November 2016, he received a 16-month conditional discharge, meaning he served a term of probation before the conviction was removed from his criminal record.

The law society hasn't released much information about the actual assault, but a more detailed account is available in court files connected to a lawsuit CC filed against Ranspot in 2017. That suit, and a counterclaim filed by Ranspot, was settled out of court in December.

A civil lawsuit filed by CC and a counterclaim filed by Ranspot have been settled out of court.
A civil lawsuit filed by CC and a counterclaim filed by Ranspot have been settled out of court.(Peter Scobie/CBC)

Under questioning during an examination for discovery in February 2019, CC said the assault began with an argument about whether she was spending enough time with Ranspot.

"He slapped me. He pulled my hair. He got on top of me. He was trying to grab my nose so he could twist it and break it. He was on top of me on the couch. He began to stick his fingers in my mouth and his fist. And he stuck his fingers in my eyes. And then he kept punching me with both fists to my head," she said, according to a transcript of the proceedings included in the civil court files.

CC said Ranspot hit her with a phone and threw a kettle, a coffee press and wine glasses at her. In her notice of claim, she alleges the assault left her with a concussion and injuries to one eye and her neck, back and jaw.

Despite pleading guilty to the assault, in his response to CC's claim Ranspot alleged CC was the aggressor and he was merely "properly defending himself against an assault and battery perpetrated upon him."

'Police believe Ranspot to be the aggressor'

Excerpts from the Vancouver Police Department investigation file included in the court documents noted that Ranspot had a bite mark on one thumb, a small bruise near one eye, and two bruises smaller than a dime on either arm.

The investigating officer wrote that Ranspot's injuries were "consistent with defensive wounds and are minor compared to [CC's]." The officer said Ranspot "provided limited details around how he was assaulted and changed his version of events during the interview."

In the end, the investigator wrote, "Police believe Ranspot to be the aggressor."

In his now-settled counterclaim, Ranspot alleged CC owed him thousands of dollars in unpaid rent and loans, had seriously damaged his apartment and defamed him by falsely telling police he had sexually assaulted her.

CC denied all of those claims in her response, and said any allegations of sexual assault were justified.

This isn't Ranspot's first time facing professional discipline.

He was suspended from practice for 18 months beginning in 1997 after billing the Legal Services Society for legal aid that he hadn't provided, among other examples of misconduct. He was also fined in 2007 for professional misconduct.

As Monday's hearing approaches, CC said she's still undecided about whether to attend.

"It's been so difficult for me and it's been very mixed emotions," she said. "I'm also a little bit worried that it might just be thrown out again."