Judge OKs lawyer’s representation of his own tenant

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer says a lawyer’s decision to act on behalf of his tenant in an extradition hearing does not present a conflict of interest.

“I do not believe that any right thinking reasonable person would perceive any conflict arising from the landlord and tenant arrangement between Mr. Federico and Ms. Pearson,” wrote Nordheimer in a written endorsement obtained by Legal Feeds.

The matter involves Toronto lawyer Ricardo Federico and his representation of client Grace Pearson, who is being sought for extradition to the United States. Pearson also rents a property from Federico, a fact that the Crown, acting on behalf of the U.S. government in Pearson’s extradition matter, suggested gave rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“The alleged conflict is said to arise in appearance because Mr. Federico stands to gain financially from Ms. Pearson staying in Canada and thereby remaining as his tenant,” wrote Nordheimer. “It is further suggested that this conflict might lead to advice not being properly given regarding this matter or that in some other function Mr. Federico might not provide full, frank, and objective advice regarding the merits of the matter, preferring instead the order that Ms. Pearson remains in Canada and remains as his tenant.”

The judge ruled against any such problem, instead determining that “no actual conflict is asserted.”

Nordheimer pointed out that Federico did not know Pearson before she became his tenant and that she approached him to act for her only because she knew he was a criminal lawyer. The judge also did not believe that a lawyer would put his professional reputation on the line simply to maintain a tenancy arrangement.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that Pearson will remain a tenant of Federico following the proceedings, said Nordheimer.

“In the end result, there is no reasonable apprehension of a conflict of interest in this case arising out of these circumstances and certainly not a conflict of the seriousness required to interfere with the important principle that a person is entitled to counsel of their choosing,” the judge wrote.

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