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LSUC sends message to lawyers who attack judges

|Written By Glenn Kauth

A Law Society of Upper Canada hearing panel has sent a message about how lawyers can criticize the judicial system in its decision disbarring Kimberly Townley-Smith.

“Although Ms. Townley-Smith has not only the right, but the obligation to criticize lawyers, judges, and the conduct of Canada’s judicial system if she believes the criticism is merited and although she should be allowed some leeway concerning her behaviour while doing so, nevertheless, the Rules of Professional Conduct require that she do so in a respectful enough manner, one that is appropriate to the judicial process,” wrote Bencher Ross Murray in an Oct. 9 decision revoking the Toronto lawyer’s licence.

The complaint against Townley-Smith originated with a copyright dispute involving Warner Bros. and the lawyer’s former client, singer Kim Baryluk, as well as a series of related matters.

During the Baryluk matter and the subsequent legal proceedings, Townley-Smith made allegations of conspiracy and corruption against a number of players in the justice system. Her complaints included a lawsuit she launched against two Superior Court judges and a master on Baryluk’s behalf.

In its penalty decision this month, the panel attempted to delineate between acceptable and inappropriate criticism.

 “As regional senior Justice [Charles] Hackland put it, there is a contrast between zealous advocacy, which is a good thing, and inappropriate advocacy, which is a problematic thing. The panel finds that Ms. Townley-Smith has clearly crossed this line.”

Townley-Smith didn’t attend the proceedings and the LSUC faced repeated difficulties in contacting her about the hearing dates. Law Times also couldn’t reach her for comment last week. Besides disbarring her, the panel made a $30,000 costs order against her.

For more, see "Lawyer ordered to pay costs for 'abusive' tactics" and "LSUC raps lawyer who sued judges."

  • Interesting Case
    Are there any actual guidelines on how one could appropriately ask questions about or critique lawyers, judges and the conduct of Canada's judicial system if they believe the criticism is merited?

    This case appears to be an extreme circumstance (a copyright case?!) but what is the appropriate course of action would have been if there were real suspicions. Too often lately I've heard and read comments from the public saying "lawyers and judges all protect each other" like they are beyond accountability. The cynicism indicates mistrust.

    Its important that the public and counsel see the system as fair and unbiased. Suppose, for instance (and I am not suggesting in any way this is the case) that there were indications of conspiracy and corruption involving players in the justice system. What would be the proper procedure for a lawyer, litigant or member of the public to raise their concerns without fear they might be cited for contempt or face disbarment?
  • frank
    I read some materials and truly felt she was ill and deserved help, especially given the true nature and characteristics of the discipline system she was facing.

    A lawyer is a precious investment by society and ought not be wasted, in my view. But many lawyers now feel it is unsafe to express any view at all, and so they do not.
    Hopefully this will change soon.

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