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Lawyer’s conspiracy allegations against three judges ‘hurtful’: court official

|Written By Kendyl Sebesta

The case of a Toronto lawyer who has levelled allegations of conspiracy against multiple players in the justice system, including several judges, has begun to sound like a movie, counsel for the Law Society of Upper Canada said last week.

Proceedings against lawyer Kimberly Townley-Smith resumed last week.

Glenn Stuart made the comment during proceedings against the Toronto lawyer, Kimberly Townley-Smith, whose dispute on behalf of a client previously involved in a battle with Warner Bros. is at the centre of the long-running case.

“It appears that any time someone lays a hand on this file, they become a part of this blossoming tree of conspiracy,” Stuart told a law society hearing panel.

“It’s ironic that Warner Bros. is involved because it sounds like a movie. It appears that Ms. Townley-Smith may feel she is attempting to challenge the system in some way, but it is my submission that there is no sense to be made of these actions.

"We may never really know what drove Ms. Townley-Smith to do all of this . . . but the result seems to be the undermining of the integrity of the administration of justice and the public confidence of the judiciary.”

Townley-Smith had her licence to practise law suspended on an interlocutory basis since June 2010. She didn’t appear at the LSUC hearing last week despite claims by the law society that she had previously agreed to the time and date of it. Townley-Smith had previously attempted to resign from practising law.

The suspension followed complaints against Townley-Smith that prompted the LSUC to issue a notice of application accusing her of professional misconduct stemming from a copyright dispute with Warner Bros. and a series of related matters that ensued.

Townley-Smith first became involved with Warner Bros. nearly six years ago when her former client, Kim Baryluk, retained her in the copyright dispute involving her Manitoba folk band, the Wyrd Sisters, against the film giant’s use of a similar name in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Baryluk attempted to stop distribution of the film because it featured a band called the Weird Sisters.

But in the end, the action ended in defeat and a $140,000 costs award in favour of Warner Bros. In turn, Townley-Smith filed a lawsuit on behalf of Baryluk against Superior Court justices Colin Campbell and John Wilkins, as well as Master Ronald Dash.

All three were involved in the Warner Bros. matter in Ontario. The lawsuit made allegations of conspiracy and fraud against them. That case was also unsuccessful and resulted in an additional $100,000 costs award to be split between Baryluk and Townley-Smith.

Baryluk sued Townley-Smith nearly five years later. She claimed she had never consented to the litigation against the three judges and wasn’t aware of additional matters against other members of the judiciary that made similar allegations of conspiracy and corruption until recently.

Baryluk has since written letters to the judges named in the action apologizing for the lawsuit. Townley-Smith maintains she had Baryluk’s consent to pursue the matter, however.

The litigation between Baryluk and Townley-Smith is ongoing, the panel heard. The court and disciplinary allegations against her haven’t been proven.

At the same time, Townley-Smith has launched a lawsuit against the law society alleging it has mishandled her case, the panel heard.

She has also made allegations of conspiracy and corruption against the administration of the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal, the Ministry of the Attorney General, and the government of Ontario, as well as a Manitoba judge, opposing counsel in the Warner Bros. matter, and LawPRO.

“It appears, in essence, that anyone who touched Ms. Townley-Smith’s file was accused of misconduct in some way or another, including myself,” Renae Oliphant, investigative counsel for the law society, told the hearing panel last week. “Ms. Townley-Smith has claimed she has never backed down and will never back down.”

Oliphant told the hearing panel Townley-Smith had also circulated several memos and letters to members of the judiciary and the bar accusing them of extortion, fraud, and breaches of trust a year prior to the law society’s allegations of professional misconduct.

In each of the letters and memos, Oliphant testified, Townley-Smith concluded by saying “the matters have been reported to the police, or in some instances the RCMP, and to govern yourself accordingly.”

According to Oliphant, Charles Scott, opposing counsel in the Warner Bros. action, filed a complaint to the law society about Townley-Smith’s actions in the case in March 2009. The LSUC also received complaints from Brian Shiller, Baryluk’s lawyer, and Jonathan Stainsby, also opposing counsel in the Warner Bros. action.

In addition, former Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench chief justice Marc Monnin (now of the Court of Appeal) complained on behalf of Justice Christopher Martin, who participated in the Warner Bros. matter in that province.

Lastly, Roslyn Levine, executive legal officer at the Superior Court, complained on behalf of Campbell, Wilkins, and Dash.

“In my experience, every judge lives with great trepidation of the day when a letter comes from the Canadian Judicial Council speaking to a complaint,” Levine told the panel last week.

“They take those complaints very seriously. . . . It becomes an attack against their integrity, and I think in this case it was particularly hurtful because it was made by a member of the bar. Judges very often feel isolated . . . as though they have no one to defend them against attack.

If there were any group who could do so, who could defend them against attack, it presumably should be members of the bar. Justice Wilkins was particularly disturbed by this given the nature of the allegations and that there was never any evidence put forward to support those allegations.”

The hearing panel will issue a ruling on the allegations of professional misconduct as well as motions filed by Townley-Smith after reserving its decision last week.

The motions include one requiring the LSUC to provide particulars of the notice of application; another dismissing the hearing panel’s proceedings; a bid to set aside the interlocutory suspension; and a request for proper disclosure.

For more, see "Lawyer ordered to pay costs for 'abusive' tactics," "Client sues counsel for suing judges," and "Where in the world is Kimberly Townley-Smith?"

  • Thomas J. Keiling
    Recent libel decisions have made it safe for all media to print fair comments concerning public figures. Although perhaps it is commercial reasons that cause the Law Times to be so 'conservative' in criticizing public bodies, In Freedman v. Maloy and York U., the Ont. Court of Appeal held that York U.'s pres, is a public official and cited case law to list others. Regulatory adjudicators and judges are public officials who can be both sued and held accountable to the public. I have yet to meet a single lawyer who doesn't believe Ms. Townley -Smith was pushed over the edge, into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) territory, by the wanton dirty tricks the law society is so famous for. Especially to hear Mr. Stuart claim he knows not what has taken hold of Ms Smith, is astounding. The Toronto Star once called the law society a "law unto itself" even though law is not what the society is infamous for.
  • Kimberly Dean
    There are many valid underlying issues here, but with a government, court system and regulator all in denial and content to brand this lawyer, who is admittedly off on the wrong tack, but likely over the right facts, little change will arise here at this moment. But I am truly convinced that crucial neeeded change is on the way. Soon!
  • Bryce C.D.
    Hold on Ms Townley-Smith. Help will soon be on the way, for all of the unfairly treated whose cases have never been given two-sided hearings, decisions or reporting.
  • Terrence Scollarde
    One-sided reporting is never fair and helps to cover up real wrongdoing, should it exist here. So one-sided decisions need to be supplemented with telephone interviews to get to the crux ogf the matter. I hope LawTimes will follow up.
    Why do you say there is a conspiracy? What happened to convince you of this? What unfairness have you suffered? Have you tried to get at least unbundled services? Could you?
    Would a firm provide a review of documents for some clerking services? Could they?
  • Sarah H.
    Post Traumatic stress can be the result of heavy-handed proceedings. This lady needs a chance.
  • Karen Shaver
    On the one hand, it seems right that the Law Society should take Ms. Townley-Smith seriously, but it looks like Ms. Townley-Smith needs protection of a different kind. As disturbing as this must be for the judges involved, I hope that they also have room for compassion.
  • moles
    This is very sad article to read.

    It seems readily apparent that Ms. Townley-Smith has a serious mental health issue.

    I hope the Law Society reached out and offered help to her before they moved to disbar her.
  • jdenning
    But it doesn't sound like they had jurisdiction to act.
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