Law Society Hearing Panel clears Torys lawyers Beth DeMerchant and Darren Sukonick of all conflict of interest allegations

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 interest.

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 Darren Sukonick.

"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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Susan Reisler -
416 342-1843 (office) 416 274-4636 (mobile)

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