Our Legal Services
(5 Decades of Legal Expertise)
Public Law is that part of law which governs relationships between individuals and the government, and those relationships between individuals which are of direct concern to society. It comprises constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law, as well as all procedural law. Mr. Sorochan is recognized as a leading lawyer in all of these practice areas:
In 1973, Mr. Sorochan was counsel in a case involving the constitutional validity of certain Canadian federal sentencing provisions relating to young offenders. The case raised issues under the Canadian Bill of Rights, was successful in the British Columbia Court of Appeal and went to the Supreme Court of Canada. As a result of the court proceedings, the sentence imposed on the youth was set aside as invalid and the Government of Canada repealed the challenged provisions of the Prisons and Reformations Act.
In 1974, because of his expertise in the area of corrections law, Mr. Sorochan, at the request of the Legal Aid Society of British Columbia, represented numerous prisoners who were confined for lengthy periods of time in the solitary confinement unit of the British Columbia Penitentiary. The case also raised issues under the Canadian Bill of Rights and the administrative law principle of the duty to act fairly.
After two years of preparation and a lengthy trial, the Federal Court of Canada declared that the prisoners had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. This case resulted in significant changes in the prison conditions and procedures and the application of the duty to act fairly in corrections administrative proceedings.
Mr. Sorochan represented an accused person who was arrested without warrants in May, 1982 but not charged until January, 1983. The matter did not come to trial until February of 1985. At trial, Mr. Sorochan for the accused, moved before plea to quash the indictment, on the ground that the delay in bringing the case to trial constituted an infringement of their right to be tried within a reasonable time guaranteed in s. 11 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The trial court held that taking the pre-charge delay into consideration, the delay was excessive and the charge should be quashed. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada it was held that pre-charge delay should not be included in the calculation of delay.
Mr. Sorochan is currently lead counsel in a pro bono class action on behalf of all Canadian armed forces veterans who have made claims under the New Veterans Charter which legislation eliminated the lifetime disability pension previously paid to disabled veterans. The cases raises issues under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and asserts that a Social Covenant by the nation and people of Canada, through the Crown, to those who have served their country has been breached and that the Social Covenant promises are given a constitutional protected status by the principles related to constitutional principle of the Honour of the Crown. These legal processes to address these issues are currently under review following a December 2017 decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal granting the Crown’s appeal from their initially unsuccessful motion to strike the claim at the British Columbia trial court level. A decision will be made by the end of January, 2018 by the veteran “Representative Plaintiffs” as to whether seek leave to appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada. Whatever the decision about an appeal to t he Supreme Court of Canada, Mr. Sorochan will continue his advocacy on behalf of those who have served in Canada’s Armed Forces.
Mr. Sorochan was a leader in developing the administrative law concept of the duty to act fairly, initially in the corrections law context and subsequently more generally.
He has acted as counsel before a wide variety of tribunals and has served as Commission Counsel to the British Columbia Police Commission throughout its existence after the Commission was created in 1975 until the Commission was replaced by another police oversight body in 1998. Mr. Sorochan also served as independent Counsel to the R.C.M.P. Public Complaints Commission and was responsible for the conduct of several significant Commission hearings into citizen complaints in the British Columbia and Yukon region.
In the 1978 Royal Commission on Incarceration of Female Offenders in British Columbia, conducted by the Honourable Madam Justice Patricia Proudfoot, Mr. Sorochan was counsel appointed by the Canadian Bar Association to represent inmates who were otherwise unrepresented in hearings of the Commission.
In 1983, Mr. Sorochan was appointed Commission Counsel to the Inquiry into Habitual Criminals in Canada conducted by the Honourable Justice Stuart Leggatt. Mr. Sorochan organized and conducted hearings into all of the cases throughout Canada of “old habituals” left over from the previous legislation who were still subject to preventative detention, in essence a life sentence. In May 1984, following the examination of each case in the Commission’s report to government, the royal prerogative of mercy was utilized to grant a pardon to those (almost 100 former designated habitual criminals) that did not meet the criteria of dangerousness in the new legislation.
In the 1986 Commission of Inquiry into Social Housing in British Columbia., Mr. Sorochan was counsel to the Commission and responsible for organizing and conducting community hearings. The hearing addressed both policy alternatives and specific allegations and grievances of interested parties. Mr. Sorochan introduced an innovative mechanism to facilitate the testimony of numerous aggrieved parties by having those with similar issues testify together in “witness panels”.
In the 1990 Discretion to Prosecute Commission of Inquiry was conducted by the then Ombudsman for British Columbia, Mr. Stephen Owen, as Commissioner. Mr. Sorochan and Bryan Williams, QC served as Commission Counsel. The Inquiry was commissioned to review and report on the integrity of the decisions made with respect a potential prosecution of William E. Reid as Provincial Secretary in the Provincial Cabinet and the adequacy of the general discretion to prosecute process in British Columbia. It also touched upon the conduct of the then British Columbia Attorney General and the Opposition Justice Critic. The Commission Report led to the establishment in British Columbia of charge approval standards and process and a Special Prosecutor process.
In 2005, Mr. Sorochan acted as Independent Counsel to the Yukon Legislative Assembly responsible for all legal aspects of The Forensic Audit and Financial Review of the City of Dawson. The duties included the presentation of the Report of the audit to the Yukon Legislative Assembly and overseeing the response processes of those whose interests may have been touched upon by the report. The report identified financial mismanagement of the City over a considerable period. It resulted in legislative changes to the City of Dawson governance structure. In 2010, the report also led to the conviction of the former mayor of Dawson for criminal breach of trust.
Mr. Sorochan has provided advice on First Nations issues to government, individuals, bands, band development corporations and businesses contracting with First Nations. He has successfully represented individuals and a group of individuals in litigation relating to abuse suffered in residential schools and has facilitated reconciliation in such cases through community healing circles and less formal processes.
Mr. Sorochan was lead counsel in the early litigation of claims against the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada by eighteen First Nations men who were sexually assaulted as students at St. Joseph’s Mission School, a B.C. residential school. Mr. Sorochan’s advocacy resulted in a 1998 out-of-court settlement, which all parties called an “historical breakthrough,” marking the first time in Canada that the federal government and a major religious denomination had admitted vicarious liability for the abuse of First Nations former residential school students. The settlement was finalized by a reconciliatory healing circle in the First Nations Community. The federal government used the out-of-court settlement as a template for the resolution of other residential school lawsuits.
Mr. Sorochan also represented First Nations women in civil proceedings related to the sexual abuse of young First Nations women by Bishop Hubert O’Connor when he was the Principal of St. Joseph’s Mission School. The women’s complaints resulted in criminal proceedings dragged through the courts for more than seven years. The civil settlement included a June 1998 private seven-hour native healing circle in which former Bishop Hubert O’Connor apologized to the native Indian women with whom he had sex.
Mr. Sorochan is recognized internationally as a leading criminal lawyer. During his career he has:
- (a) represented persons accused of crimes at all levels of the courts of Canada, including persons accused of murder and other serious offences, as well as complex frauds;
- (b) represented persons accused of crimes in foreign jurisdictions, including defending extradition proceedings in Canada and negotiating with foreign law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities;
- (c) prosecuted criminal proceedings for the Attorney General for Canada:
- (i) as the standing agent for all federal prosecutions in North Vancouver;
- (ii) as an ad hoc prosecutor for major narcotics trafficking and conspiracy cases; and
- (iii) as an ad hoc prosecutor in complex bankruptcy fraud cases.
- (d) prosecuted criminal proceedings for the Attorney General of British Columbia:
- (i) as the standing agent for provincial prosecutions in the North Coastal region;
- (ii) as the prosecutor of serious criminal offences in the jury assizes of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and resulting appeals to the British Columbia Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada;
- (iii) as a prosecutor responsible for extradition proceedings of Canadian fugitives in foreign jurisdictions.
- (e) prosecuted criminal proceedings as a Special Prosecutor appointed under the British Columbia Crown Counsel Act, including:
- (i) conducting the prosecution and appeals following the conviction of the police officer in charge of a lockup who failed to prevent a severe beating of a prisoner in his charge;
- (ii) the complex fraud prosecution of a former B.C. provincial cabinet minister and co-accused in a case that had considerable political implications;
- (iii) conducting the prosecution of criminal contempt of court and related proceedings against a “right to life” protestor whose actions violated the terms of court injunctions and enactments aimed at the protection of health service providers in clinics where abortions were performed.
- (f) represented the Canadian Bar Association on a multi-year review of the whole criminal law of Canada, which included several in-depth studies of substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence and sentencing, resulting in the publication by the Commission of many Working Papers and Reports to Parliament:
- (g) lectured internationally on all aspects of criminal law and criminal law reform;
- (h) acted as a representative of the Province of British Columbia to the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and as a consultant to foreign governments and non-governmental organizations on criminal law reform issues; and
- (i) attended the United Nations Crime Congress in Salvador Brazil in April 2010 as a delegate representing the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.
(5 Decades of Legal Expertise)
Practicing for 46 years with the same Vancouver law firm, Mr. Sorochan provided leadership to develop the law practice into a leading local, regional and Canadian national law firm with international reach.
After his call to the Bar of British Columbia in 1972, Mr. Sorochan joined the Vancouver law firm Swinton & Company, the predecessor of Miller Thomson, Vancouver, where he had served as an articled student the previous year. He has practiced with the firm for his entire career.
Mr. Sorochan served as the Managing Partner of Swinton & Company during the periods of 1981 – 1984 and 1996 – 2000. Upon Swinton & Company merging with Miller Thomson LLP in October of 2000, Mr. Sorochan continued as the Managing Partner of the British Columbia and Yukon offices of Miller Thomson LLP and as a member of the National Executive Committee of Miller Thomson LLP. Mr. Sorochan remained a partner in Miller Thomson LLP until 2015 and continued as the senior litigation counsel in the Vancouver office of the firm until his retirement from the firm on December 31, 2016.
As one of the senior partners of Miller Thomson LLP, his practice encompassed the areas of securities, aboriginal, commercial and construction litigation, administrative law, and criminal law (including prosecution for both the federal and provincial governments). Mr. Sorochan’s advocacy work has resulted in several landmark decisions in Canadian law in these areas.
As of January 1, 2017, Mr. Sorochan continued his law practice through Donald J. Sorochan Law Corporation.
Mr. Sorochan has aviation experience going back to 1966 and continuing to the present.
After his graduation from the BA program at the University of Alberta (1966), Mr. Sorochan was employed by Canadian Pacific Airlines at the Edmonton Airport. That employment continued at Vancouver International Airport during his law studies at UBC (1968 – 71). Upon commencing his law practice in 1972, Mr. Sorochan represented a number of “third level” carriers in regulatory proceedings before the Canadian Transport Commission and in litigation matters. When the regulatory process for route approvals changed, Mr. Sorochan continued to represent carriers in litigation matters and was part of a legal team providing legal services for the acquisition of several British Columbia air carriers and the consolidation of their companies and air services.
During the initial development stage, Mr. Sorochan served as a Board Member and Chairman of a new Canadian ultra low-cost airline headquartered in Vancouver, BC.
Mr. Sorochan has been recognized as one of Canada’s leading construction lawyers.
Mr. Sorochan has acted on behalf of clients in construction law matters since 1972. In doing so, he has provided advice and litigation services to contractors, owners, government agencies, engineers, architects, insurers and bonding companies and has represented the following:
- (a) a general contractor in litigation at the trial and appellate levels of the Federal Court of Canada relating to the construction of a fish hatchery. The case is a leading case on the application of implied terms to a construction contract, the court ruling that the contract was subject to the importation of the commonly understood and “fundamental” implied term that an owner is obliged to provide sufficient space around the site of the proposed building to enable the contractor to carry out the work.
- (b) the University of British Columbia and the Alma Mater Society of UBC in litigation relating to the failure of laminated beams in the UBC Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre. This involved numerous parties and was settled on the eve of trial.
- (c) a consortium of major electrical contractors and a hauling contractor against a major utility relating to the construction of transmission lines. This required counsel appearances in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada before trial. The litigation settled after presentation of the plaintiff’s case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia trial.
- (d) a major tunneling contractor in litigation against a railway company involving the construction of a railroad tunnel for the Tumbler Ridge Coal Project. This litigation settled on the eve of trial using mediation/settlement procedures.
- (e) a major Canadian electrical contractor in complex litigation against a major public utility regarding the construction of an electrical transmission line. This litigation required counsel conducting a lengthy trial in the Supreme Court of British Columbia and acting on appeals to the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. The case is the leading case on the right to sue concurrently in tort and contract.
- (f) a major heavy construction and metal fabrication contractor in litigation relating to the construction of facilities for Expo 86. This litigation settled prior to trial;
- (g) a major Canadian heavy construction and marine contractor in litigation against a major utility involving the construction of a drainage adit required to stabilize a mountain slope adjacent to a major hydro dam. Participated through mediation and settlement procedures and conducted the litigation through a complex trial.
Mr. Sorochan is a leading securities litigation practitioner. His practice encompasses complex national and international securities litigation. He has:
- (a) provided counsel to individuals, financial institutions, law enforcement and regulatory agency clients relating to securities litigation matters and money laundering issues;
- (b) represented clients in the courts, before regulatory tribunals and in arbitration proceedings relating to securities;
- (c) represented both the Crown and the defence at trial and appellate levels iin criminal litigation relating to securities;
- (d) retained and instructed U.S. counsel on behalf of Canadian clients relating to securities litigation in the U.S.;
- (e) been responsible for the conduct of the defence of clients in complex securities litigation, including class actions, in the federal, state, provincial and territorial courts throughout the U.S. and Canada;
- (f) successfully represented a financial institution and its directors in the longest and most complex hearing to date before the British Columbia Securities Commission;
- (g) represented the British Columbia Financial Institutions Commission in proceedings related to the influence and control of a credit union by parties accused in the Air India bombing criminal proceedings;
- (h) represented Canadian clients in dealings with U.S. state and federal securities regulatory authorities, including negotiating cross-border licensing arrangements and defending parties being investigated; and
- (i) represented a financial institution and the Government of Yukon on all aspects of the court and regulatory proceedings related to the restructuring of Asset Backed Commercial Paper in Canada from 2007 – 2010. This included advising the Government of Yukon on litigation and regulatory matters and conducting or overseeing court proceedings across Canada and in New York State for the financial institution.
Throughout his career, Mr. Sorochan has been a leader in his community.
Mr. Sorochan was a founding Board Member of the Canadian Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (CACOLE) and served as a member of the Board of that organization for several years.
Mr. Sorochan is the author of chapter in the book “Pepper in Our Eyes: The Apec Affair” which examined the role of police in dealing with protesters at the 1997 Vancouver summit of the leaders of member nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization. The chapter authored by Mr. Sorochan “The APEC Protest, the Rule of Law, and Civilian Oversight of Canada’s National Police Force” dealt with the rule of law and policing.
Mr. Sorochan served as Independent Commission Counsel to the British Columbia Police Commission throughout its existence, with the responsibility to provide legal advice to the Commission and conduct hearings and inquiries under the British Columbia Police Act.
Mr. Sorochan served for several years as Independent Commission Counsel to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Public Complaints Commission (now known as the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP), with the responsibility to provide legal advice to the Commission and conduct hearings and inquiries under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.
Mr. Sorochan served as a Director and then President of the British Columbia Corrections Association.
Mr. Sorochan served on the Board of the Western Correctional Association, an association of corrections professionals in the Western States and B.C., as Secretary, as well as serving on various committees. He was the recipient of the association’s award for outstanding citizen contributions to corrections reform.
Mr. Sorochan was a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Justice Institute of British Columbia, which was created under the British Columbia Colleges and Institutes Act. The Justice Institute is responsible for the training of police officers, prison guards, probation officers, court staff, fire and ambulance personnel and others involved in the justice system.
For eight years until 1989, Mr. Sorochan was an Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Law of the University of British Columbia and taught part-time at the law school.
Mr. Sorochan is a frequent lecturer in Canada and abroad on a wide-ranging spectrum of legal topics including administrative law processes, legal ethics, money-laundering, corrections law, commercial fraud, corruption, alternate dispute resolution, international commercial arbitration, cross-border securities regulation, the civilian oversight of police, construction disputes and the use of technology in complex litigation.
Mr. Sorochan continues to serve as a mentor and advisor to the UBC Law Innocence Project. As such, Mr. Sorochan meets on a regular basis to discuss the student’s assigned case and any other criminal law or practice issues that arise.
Mr. Sorochan served a term as a Community Board Member of the National Parole Board of Canada. This was a part-time appointment in which two community board members were required by law to sit as voting members of parole board panels representing the community on parole applications by convicted murderers, dangerous offenders, dangerous sexual offenders and habitual criminals.
Mr. Sorochan served as a Committee member and as Chairman of the Corrections & Institutions Committee of the British Columbia Branch of the Canadian Bar Association. The Committee addressed reforms to legislation and processes relating to prisons and mental health institutions in British Columbia and worked in conjunction with the CBA National Special Committee on Imprisonment and Release.
Over a period of seven years, Mr. Sorochan served as one of six lawyers from across Canada representing the Canadian Bar Association and working with the Law Reform Commission of Canada, representatives of the judiciary, police and legal academics in redrafting the Criminal Code of Canada. This project has resulted in the Law Reform Commission of Canada issuing several reports and preparing a model Criminal Code.
Mr. Sorochan has served as a delegate appointed by the Attorney General of British Columbia to both the Criminal and Civil Sections of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The Civil Section considers areas in which provincial and territorial laws would benefit from harmonization and drafts “uniform statutes”, which the Section adopts and recommends for enactment. Mr. Sorochan’s work with the Civil Section was primarily in the area of international commercial arbitration. The Criminal Section considers issues regarding the implementation and reform of the Criminal Code and related statutes.
Mr. Sorochan chaired a committee for the Canadian Bar Association and drafted a submission relating to criminal justice reform on behalf of the Canadian Bar Association to a Commission studying the justice system in B.C.
As a result of his involvement with the Law Reform Commission of Canada, Mr. Sorochan became a founding member of the International Society for the Reform of the Criminal Law – an international body which studies and makes proposals for the reform of the criminal law. He has served for many years, and continues to serve, as the Treasurer of the Society and a member of the Society’s Board of Directors and Management Committee. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the Criminal Law Forum, an international peer-reviewed journal.
Mr. Sorochan has been awarded the International Society for the Reform of the Criminal Law Gold Medal.
Mr. Sorochan was a member of a committee that led to the creation of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy. The Centre is an independent, non-profit institute formally affiliated as an Institute with the United Nations and part of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program. The Centre was created as a result of a partnership between the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, the International Society for the Reform of the Criminal Law, the Faculty of Law of the University of British Columbia and the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University.
In recognition of his contributions, the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy has established a scholarship in Mr. Sorochan’s name.
Mr. Sorochan was a member of Task Force appointed by the Attorney General of British Columbia to draft legislation relating to international commercial arbitration and to establish the B.C. International Commercial Arbitration Centre.
Mr. Sorochan has been active in youth sports activities, refereeing hockey and umpiring baseball. He has served as the president of a local minor hockey association, as a hockey league manager, the Referee-in-Chief and a member of the Board of the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association, President of the Mount Seymour Little League and a member of the Board of the regional governing body for Little League baseball. His contributions have been recognized in the granting of awards by these organizations.
Mr. Sorochan has received awards recognizing his contributions to youth sport by local and regional amateur hockey and baseball organizations.