Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the sentence imposed upon Nicholas Dougan’s plea of guilty to two charges of assault. That error has been corrected in the text below.
A short-tempered Ontario lawyer who bit off a chunk of a grieving man’s ear in a 2013 fight, involving racial slurs, spit and a four-car funeral procession, had his legal licence suspended for four months.
In its August 7, 2018 decision, the disciplinary committee of the Law Society of Ontario found that Nicholas Dougan had acted in an undignified and unworthy manner for a legal practitioner when he violently confronted a family on its slow drive to the cemetery to bury a loved one in Cornwall.
Dougan pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and received a conditional discharge in 2015. He later closed his budding law practice in Cornwall, went into bankruptcy and has since moved to Quebec. The four-month suspension of his legal licence in Ontario only added to those woes.
“The commission of these assaults discredits the legal profession in general and gives a bad impression of Mr. Dougan’s reliability and ability to practice law in particular,” reads the disciplinary committee’s recent ruling.
“At all times, a lawyer must remain calm when faced with the frustrations of daily life and can never resort to violence and insults.”
The incident took place in Cornwall on May 31, 2013. According to the Law Society of Ontario, Dougan had an administrative suspension period that ended Aug. 7, 2018 wherein a disciplinary suspension took effect immediately after. That suspension ended on Dec. 7 2018 when his licence was reinstated.
According to court documents in his criminal trial before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Dougan, then 37, became irritated when the funeral cortege blocked his way at in intersection.
Dougan attempted to cut through the procession, earning a verbal blast from 39-year-old Kevin Langlois, a son of the deceased.
The situation quickly escalated when the 6-foot, 4-inch Dougan, who is Black, got out of his car and confronted Langlois.
“I have the impression that racial slur and profanity predominated,” Justice Rick Leroy wrote in his decision, which was rendered Oct. 5, 2015.
“Mr. Dougan called Mr. Langlois a ‘French Fuck’ and spat at him through the open car window. Mr. Langlois called Mr. Dougan a ‘Fucking Nigger,’ exited the car and confronted Dougan returning the favour of spit,” Leroy wrote. Leroy also states that “it is a fact” that it was Dougan who threw the first punch, hitting Langlois in the eye.
For Dougan, however, the fight went downhill from there. Within seconds, Langlois had Dougan on the ground where he immobilized the lawyer’s hands and “pummelled” him, according to Leroy.
Dougan retaliated by biting off a large piece of Langlois’ ear lobe.
Langlois’ 40-year-old sister Chantal Bickle then punched Dougan, cutting him across the forehead.
All three people involved in the fight were charged with assault and aggravated assault.
The charges against Langlois were later withdrawn, while Bickle pleaded guilty and received a conditional discharge with probation for one year, with no reporting or ancillary orders.
In sentencing Dougan, Leroy found that the Montreal-born lawyer had acted out of character.
“Empirically, Mr. Dougan defied probabilities. He and his brother were raised by their single mother in a tough neighbourhood (where) drugs, gang crime and racial tension predominated.”
“Mr. Dougan,” the judge added, “is familiar with racial profiling, having personally experienced racially-based stops many times. Part of his motivation to be a lawyer was to redress racial stereotyping and its effects on the profiled community.”
In their unanimous French-language ruling, the three-member disciplinary board that heard Dougan’s case in June invoked various articles of Ontario’s rules of professional conduct and law governing the legal profession to justify its four-month suspension of Dougan’s legal license.
“Mr. Dougan demonstrated a shocking disregard for the solemnness of a funeral and the feelings of the deceased’s loved ones,” wrote panel president David Wright and members Suzanne Clément and Rocco Galati. “What’s more, he identified himself as a lawyer during the fight, which makes his actions all the more serious in the context.”