An Ottawa lawyer is suing three police officers and the city’s police services board, seeking $1.2 million in damages based on claims that he continues to suffer from an alleged incident of wrongful arrest.
The claim, filed at Ottawa’s Superior Court, includes an allegation that police failed to immediately return a confidential client file to Lee Mullowney’s briefcase upon his release from custody.
“I’ve never seen a case like this before,” Mullowney’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, tells Law Times. “It’s not only unusual, but very troubling.”
City of Ottawa lawyer Stuart Huxley, who is representing the defendants in the case, says a notice
of intent to defend has been filed.
“We will be responding to the claim,” says Huxley. “The matter is before the courts and as such I’m not in a position to really add anything further in that regard.”
In addition to the police services board, the claim specifically names as defendants Ottawa Police Det. Christina Wolf, Const.
Nick Iadinardi, and Const. M. Couturier. Mullowney - a sole practitioner who specializes in technology and intellectual property law - is seeking general damages of $200,000; punitive, exemplary, and/or aggravated damages of $250,000; damages for loss of future income and/or competitive advantage of $750,000; along with other costs, according to the claim.
The allegations date back to September 2007, when Mullowney formed a solicitor-client relationship with a person facing criminal charges, states the claim. He arranged for the client to turn himself into police, according to the claim, to be arrested and charged with various offences, and helped set a show-cause hearing before setting the client up with a criminal lawyer.
Mullowney attended the show-cause hearing on Sept. 20, 2007, at which the client was represented by a criminal lawyer, according to the claim. Before the hearing began, the Crown requested an order excluding Mullowney from the court based on information that he was “falsely holding himself out to be a lawyer,” reads the claim.
The justice of the peace refused that order, according to the claim.
The claim states that, after the hearing was adjourned, Wolf told Mullowney that she planned to lay charges against him.
Later that day, while Mullowney was at the court administration office ordering transcripts, Iadinardi and Couturier arrested Mullowney for “impersonating a lawyer,” according to the claim.
The officers searched Mullowney, seized his briefcase, and took him to a cell in the courthouse, the claim states. The lawyer told the officers that the briefcase contained documents “pertaining to a client for which he claimed privilege,” according to the claim.
Iadinardi later told Mullowney that he was being charged with obstruction of justice, states the claim. Mullowney was permitted to call the Law Society of Upper Canada’s lawyer referral service, and the LSUC representative asked to speak with the officer to confirm Mullowney’s good standing, according to the claim.
Iadinardi told Mullowney he would speak with Wolf about the information from the law society, according to the claim, and the lawyer was placed in a cell. About 30 minutes later, Wolf told Mullowney that she was waiting to speak with someone from the law society with more authority, the claim says.
The lawyer was later shackled and taken to a police station, before being released without charges and having his property returned to him, states the claim.
After returning home, Mullowney noticed that the client file inside his briefcase was missing, states the claim. The next day, he was told by an Ottawa Police Service member that he could pick the file up at the police station, according to the claim.
“Mr. Mullowney retrieved the missing file and upon inspection noticed that a number of items were missing, all the documents were out of order and some documents appeared to have been separated and then stapled back together,” reads the claim.
The claim states that counsel for the Ottawa police “have confirmed” that items from the client file were removed and copied by police, and that other items were seized and kept by the Ottawa Police Service.
Based on the allegations, Mullowney is seeking damages based on false arrest and detention, negligent investigation, and breach of Charter rights, according to the claim.
“The actions and/or omissions of Detective Wolf, Constable Iadinardi, Constable Couturier and the Ottawa Police Services Board were callous and high-handed, and taken without regard to the impact that they would have upon Mr. Mullowney,” states the claim. “The actions . . . undermine the public’s confidence in police officers and the administration of justice.”
The claim alleges that Mullowney has suffered “emotional pain and suffering,” and that he continues to face “physical and psychological damages.” While in custody, states the claim, the lawyer suffered “claustrophobia, light-headedness, headache, accelerated pulse, extreme anxiety, dry mouth, and he blacked out on two occasions.”
The claim further states that Mullowney continues to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, and that he lost 25 pounds in a month following his release from custody.
The claim also states that Mullowney’s reputation was hurt by the incident, and he “continues to suffer from a loss of income and/or competitive advantage.”