Law Society lack of evidence cited by Panel
TORONTO, Oct. 17, 2013 /CNW/ - Proceedings initiated by the Law Society
of Upper Canada in April 2009 against Torys LLP partner Beth
DeMerchant, and her colleague Darren Sukonick, concluded today with the
release of the Law Society Hearing Panel decision and reasons that
completely exonerates the two lawyers of all allegations of conflict of
The allegations arose from an investigation commenced by the Law Society
in 2006 and relate to work done by Torys during the 2000 to 2003 period
for the Hollinger Group of Companies. That work was led by then Torys
partner Beth DeMerchant, and her colleague, current Torys partner
"Beth is a wonderful person and an accomplished, highly ethical lawyer,
as three years of litigation ultimately proved," said Phillip Campbell,
counsel for Ms DeMerchant. "Today's ruling is a complete victory for
her and Darren after an incomplete investigation and a pointless,
painful prosecution. The Panel's careful, closely reasoned decision has
important implications for corporate legal practice and for the Law
Society's standards of investigation and prosecution. We will explore
those in the weeks ahead; for today we are elated that an ordeal which
should never have begun has come to an end."
Ian Smith, counsel to Darren Sukonick said "while I am obviously
delighted with the result in this case, which absolves Mr Sukonick and
Ms DeMerchant of any misconduct, it is difficult not to feel at the
same time a tremendous sense of regret about the fact that these
protracted proceedings have detoured Mr Sukonick's career. At the time
that this case commenced, Darren Sukonick was working as a gifted young
lawyer on the most sophisticated corporate legal work. Unfortunately,
Mr Sukonick has, for the past eight years, spent the bulk of his time
and energy responding to allegations which should never have been
litigated. However, I have no doubt that his conspicuous talents will
enable him to resume a brilliant career. It has been a terrible waste,
not only of the limited money and resources that the Law Society has to
protect the public, but especially of Mr Sukonick's time and efforts."
Les Viner, Managing Partner of Torys LLP, said: "Throughout this lengthy
proceeding, Torys has been steadfast in our support of Beth and
Darren. We are very pleased that they have been vindicated by the
Hearing Panel's dismissal of all allegations made against them. We
deeply regret the personal toll this process has taken on them. They
have exhibited a great deal of courage and determination. We know them
to be fine people and excellent lawyers. This outcome is justly
deserved, and we congratulate them."
The hearing lasted over two and half years, starting in April 2010 and
concluding in December 2012.
The Law Society called only one witness, a forensic accountant, Dr. Hans
Marschdorf, who, according to the Panel report "was asked to suggest
conclusions when not all the facts were known by him ... After his
testimony, further evidence showed that many of his suggestions could
not be supported."
The Panel went on to say, "It is unfortunate that no one who was
involved with any of the six particulars testified for the applicant,
the Law Society."
The Panel said that Ms DeMerchant and Mr Sukonick followed general
practice, there was no evidence that "counsel preferred the legal
interests of one or more clients to the detriment of another" or that
"counsel has personal interests that would create a conflict," and
there was no conflict of interest related to acting for Conrad Black in
the matter of the renouncing of his citizenship.
As a result, the Panel concluded that "all six particulars should be
dismissed against Ms DeMerchant and Mr Sukonick."
SOURCE: Fenton Smith
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