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Monday, June 20, 2011

$200K COSTS ORDER IN LIBEL SUIT

A judge has ordered shareholder activist Robert Verdun to pay Bank of Montreal director Robert Astley $216,000 in costs for an 11-day defamation trial.

That’s in addition to the $650,000 in damages already awarded to Astley by a jury who found Verdun had acted with malice when he defamed him in a long-running campaign to stop his appointment to the bank’s board.

“It is time for this vitriolic campaign to end,” wrote Ontario Superior Court Justice Sandra Chapnik in her June 14 costs decision that also imposed a permanent injunction on Verdun from making public statements about Astley.

Verdun said he was the one entitled to costs, claiming $2 million for the alleged misconduct of his opposing counsel. But Chapnik dismissed those claims as without merit.

She said permanent injunctions should only be granted in “the clearest and rarest of cases” but ruled this was one of those matters.

Verdun, she noted, had planned to publish a book on Astley that claimed he was a “white-collar criminal who should be jailed for fraud and sentenced to 14 years in prison” and was likely to continue his campaign unless the court imposed an injunction.

Verdun must also remove blog postings that refer directly or indirectly to Astley.

For more on this story, see "Landmark ruling in libel suit."

NEW PARTNER AT FASKENS

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP has picked up corporate lawyer Sunny Sodhi from Torys LLP.

Sodhi, who has strong ties to India, becomes a partner in the firm’s Asia Pacific, financial institutions, and corporate commercial practice groups.

“We are pleased to welcome Sunny into our ranks. He has a great deal of knowledge of Asian markets and is a skilled corporate lawyer with specific expertise in banking regulation.

He’s a great addition to our team,” said Martin Denyes, Faskens’ regional managing partner for Ontario.

WEIRFOULDS LAWYER HONOURED BY OBA

WeirFoulds LLP partner Bradley McLellan is to receive the Ontario Bar Association’s 2011 Award of Excellence in Real Estate on June 21.

The award recognizes exceptional contributions and achievements in real estate law by members of the OBA for teaching, lecturing, scholarly writing, lobbying, and enhancement in that area of law.

McLellan heads the firm’s commercial real estate practice group. He’s also recognized as an expert in the purchase, sale, and financing of commercial real estate.

DAVIS LLP MOVING UP

Davis LLP officially unveiled its new office space on the 60th floor of First Canadian Place in Toronto at an event on June 9 after vacating its old digs a few floors below.

“We’re very excited about the move,” says Samuel Schwartz, managing partner of the Toronto office.

He says Davis was bursting at the seams with only a partial floor to its name.

Now with the entire 60th floor and part of the 59th floor as well, the firm has the room to carry out a planned expansion as it increases its focus on Toronto.

Over the next few years, he expects the Ontario office, which currently has about 40 lawyers, to match the Vancouver total of closer to 100.

While most Canadian firms are looking West for growth, Davis is making the opposite move.

“I think we bring a different way of thinking,” says Edmonton-based national managing partner Robert Seidel.

While competition in Canada’s financial centre is tough, Seidel says he’s confident.

“We’re not going to come here and push the Seven Sisters off the puck,” he says. “But what we’ve got to do is see where the puck is going.”

LAWYER JUMPS TO BAKER & MCKENZIE

Baker & McKenzie LLP has added former Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP lawyer Howard Burshtein to the ranks at its Toronto office.

Burshtein is now a partner in the firm’s global securities and global energy, mining, and infrastructure practice groups.

“Howard’s experience will complement our existing capabilities in securities, M&A, and mining. There is a growing interest from our domestic and global clients in these areas and the Canadian market, and Howard’s addition will help us expand our suite of services to clients,” said Jim Holloway, managing partner of the Toronto office.

Burshtein’s practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions as well as corporate finance and governance. He also works extensively with clients in the mining sector.

SURVEY FINDS OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK

Half of lawyers anticipate growth in the third quarter, according to research by Robert Half Legal.

Fifty per cent of lawyers interviewed for the report said they plan to add legal staff in the next three months, while just one per cent expect reductions. The projected net increase of 49 per cent is a six-point jump over the second quarter.

The report surveyed 150 lawyers with hiring authority, with half coming from law firms with at least 20 staff members and the remainder at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Lawyers, legal secretaries, and law clerks are in high demand, and corporate law is the area expected to see the most growth.

THOMSON ROGERS TURNS 75

Thomson Rogers celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 7 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

To commemorate the occasion, the Toronto firm’s managing partner, Alan Farrer, along with Douglas Goudie, Kenneth Howie, and Lawrence Mandel, presented a donation of $75,000 to Law Society of Upper Canada CEO Malcolm Heins to benefit the Lawyers Feed the Hungry program.

LAWYER CHALLENGES LSUC WITH NEW SUIT

Kimberly Townley-Smith’s disciplinary hearing has taken another twist, with the lawyer launching a lawsuit over the Law Society of Upper Canada’s handling of her case.

The Toronto lawyer was suspended on an interlocutory basis in June 2010 amid claims she repeatedly sought to litigate allegations of conspiracy and corruption among Superior Court judges, despite an earlier attempt to resign from practice.

Hearing dates had been set down earlier this year, but Townley-Smith won an adjournment on medical grounds.

At a proceedings management conference on June 13 for scheduling of her matter, she said she had launched the suit because the law society was engaging in an “abuse of power” by threatening her with the prospect of a hearing “without there being any realistic chance of those hearing dates proceeding.”

As well as her own health issues, she said the fact that the law society is still providing her with disclosure showed the LSUC was not ready to proceed. Townley-Smith also said that what she had received so far raised concerns about “altered documents” and “insufficient disclosure.”

“The law society continues to pretend we’re going to have a hearing date as if that’s some sort of motivator for me to give in to whatever they want,” said Townley-Smith, who was participating in the conference by phone.

The announcement was a bit of a bombshell to presiding Bencher Paul Schabas, who was informed that he was among those named in her statement of claim, which has been filed with the Ontario Superior Court in Hamilton, Ont.

Townley-Smith said Schabas had shown a pattern of “giving the law society what it wants” in previous proceedings management conferences. She added, “I don’t know why you would want to continue to do the same thing that got you sued and increase the damages. That appears to be what the law society is doing.”

Townley-Smith said her medical condition had improved somewhat after surgery but noted she was still experiencing symptoms and is scheduled to discuss her options with her surgeon next week. The case returns for proceedings management on June 27 after the meeting with the doctor.

The judicial corruption allegations at the heart of Townley-Smith’s disciplinary proceeding all stemmed from a failed attempt to stop the release of the fourth installment of the Harry Potter film franchise in Canada on behalf of her client, musician Kim Baryluk, whose band shared its name with a fictional group featured in the movie.

After a costs award against Baryluk of $140,000, a suit was launched against three judges involved in the proceeding.

In a separate lawsuit, Baryluk has claimed Townley-Smith acted alone on the judges’ suit, although the lawyer countered that Baryluk was fully informed at every stage. None of the allegations have been proven in court.   

A blog supporting Townley-Smith’s views has been set up with occasional updates on her case. It can be found at ktsandthelawsociety.blogspot.com.

For more on this story, see “Where in the world is Kimberly Townley-Smith?” and “Client sues counsel for suing judges.

COURT LISTS NOW ONLINE

The Toronto Lawyers Association is now making Toronto civil court lists available online.

The information includes trials, pretrials, case conferences, motions and masters’ motions. The organization hopes to make commercial and bankruptcy lists available as well.

Visit tlaonline.ca to see the lists.

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