Two Ontario lawyers cleared of conflict of interest allegations by a Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel are seeking costs estimated at $4 million from the regulator.
In a 69-page costs submissions document issued Oct. 31 on behalf of Beth DeMerchant and Darren Sukonick, their lawyers Philip Campbell of Lockyer Campbell Posner and Ian Smith of Fenton Smith outlined the total time spent defending their clients.
They claim that combined, two senior lawyers acting for DeMerchant and Sukonick logged about 8,000 hours of preparation work and 237.5 hearing days defending them over seven years. An additional 440 hours of work was carried out by juniors and students.
The total cost is noted as being “in excess of $3.6 million and much closer to $4 million with disbursements.”
Five of the six conflict of interest allegations DeMerchant and Sukonick faced were related to work they did on behalf of the Hollinger group of companies and the other was related to the tax implications of Conrad Black’s renunciation of his Canadian citizenship.
In response to the costs submissions, the law society’s director of communications, Roy Thomas, told Legal Feeds in a statement: “In accordance with the decision and order of the hearing panel, the law society will be filing its reply to the cost submissions. The reply is a public document, which will be available from the tribunals office once it is filed.”
In the costs submission document, the lawyers for DeMerchant and Sukonick state: “Where proceedings are unwarranted, the panel has a discretion as to whether to order costs against the law society. The relevant circumstances in making that determination include, according to the decision in Igbinosun the following:
“The lawyer’s co-operation with the law society; the efforts of the lawyer to bring home to the law society the unwarranted nature of the conduct hearing; the degree of hardship suffered by the lawyer; the opinion or opinions obtained by the law society; and the manner in which the hearing was conducted.”
In the 10-year proceeding involving Toronto lawyer Matthew Joseal Igbinosun, the Court of Appeal eventually ordered the law society to pay the lawyer $61,000 for his protracted appeal process even as he claimed it had cost him $400,000 plus more than $50,000 at the initial hearing.
It’s the position of DeMerchant and Sukonick that the proceedings against them were “unwarranted and the result of negligence” and that “either full or substantial recovery of the lawyers’ costs is appropriate.”
The costs submissions states: “Virtually any line of analysis should yield a cost award higher than any made in any earlier case. This is appropriate at the end of a prosecution of this duration and magnitude, where pecuniary compensation cannot even begin to remedy the serious wrong done to Ms DeMerchant and Mr. Sukonick.”