The Law Society of Manitoba has barred two Alberta lawyers from practising in the province and ordered them to pay $5,000 after receiving complaints they hired a private investigator to surveil a judge who was hearing a case involving COVID-19 public health orders.

John Carpay, president of the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, and Randal Jay Cameron faced charges from the independent regulator, including undermining public respect for the administration of justice and breach of integrity.

Ayli Klein, the law society's counsel, told a panel at a disciplinary hearing Monday that banning Carpay and Cameron from practising law in the province was the most serious penalty available. 

"Their misconduct is truly shocking," she said. 

"It's crucial the panel sends an unequivocal message … what they did was unprofessional."

Both Carpay and Cameron agreed to the law society's recommendations. Carpay pleaded guilty to breach of integrity while Cameron admitted to professional misconduct. 

Carpay told the panel he regretted his actions.

"I fully acknowledge that my instructing surveillance of Chief Justice (Glenn) Joyal was in violation of my professional obligations as a lawyer to the court and to society," said Carpay. 

Lawyers for the two men say they never meant to interfere with a case before the courts. Cameron was not present during the hearing on Monday. 

Both men represented several churches that attempted in 2021 to overturn Manitoba public health orders that prevented in-person religious services during the height of the pandemic.

Carpay said in a news release distributed by the Justice Centre that he was informed of criminal charges against him in December 2022 and continues to deny any criminal wrongdoing. 

Carpay's lawyer told the panel the Law Society of Alberta would make a decision to pursue their own hearing after the Manitoba one was completed.