Law Practice

Court: Lawyer Lied in Firm Fight ... But Which One?

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A recent ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal offers a startling view of the hard-hitting office politics at a venerable Toronto law firm.

When attorney Benjamin Moss trudged back to Pinkofskys from a criminal trial on May 14, 2004 and reported to his colleagues that the firm’s client had lost, an internal law firm battle ensued, reports the Globe and Mail.

It focused on whether client Carlington McKenzie, who didn’t testify, should have received more encouragement to do so. According to the newspaper and the court, two senior partners took the client’s side when he subsequently sought to overturn his conviction, alleging inadequate assistance of counsel and contending that Moss told him he couldn’t testify. (Moss said that isn’t true.)

A majority of the appellate panel ruled against McKenzie, the newspaper recounts, in “an unusual 2-1 ruling earlier this month that exposes the sort of internal law firm machinations rarely seen in public”—and concludes that at least one of the lawyers enmeshed in the dispute was lying.

Specifically, in what the appellate court describes as a “troubling” situation, its opinion states:

“This court is faced with affidavits from three lawyers, officers of this court, where it is apparent that one or more of them are deliberately misleading the court. The affidavits, which were provided by the appellant’s trial counsel and two senior members of the firm where trial counsel was employed at the time of the appellant’s trial … cannot on any basis be reconciled.”

Meanwhile, the case reportedly cost Moss his job. According to Reid Rusonic, senior managing partner at Pinkofskys, the dispute divided the firm’s lawyers, who eventually asked Moss to leave.

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