A pair of Windsor lawyers who for years have had their licence to practice suspended indefinitely have failed in their bid to have the penalties lifted.
Claudio Martini and Maria Marusic made their joint appeal to the Law Society of Ontario’s tribunal during a lengthy hearing that lasted over several dates throughout 2021.
However, their request for a “stay” that would have lifted their suspensions — pending a final decision on their fate — was denied in a tribunal ruling released last week.
The tribunal concluded the pair will each have their licence remain suspended until “dates are to be set for a hearing on penalty.”
Both lawyers launched the joint appeal in late 2020 to have their suspensions lifted due to the lengthy delay of any final decision by the law society on their future as lawyers.
Martini’s ability to practice has been suspended since April 2015 due to allegations of misappropriation of funds by the law society that totalled several millions of dollars from a trust account and other clients.
He further complicated his future when the law society learned afterwards he was continuing to provide legal services while suspended.
Marusic, a partner in the local law firm with Martini, was initially requested in 2015 by the law society to also be handed an indefinite suspension for her role in co-signing several cheques for his trust account withdrawals.
The two were law partners dating back to 2000, then in 2001 also became romantic partners, according to the law society’s findings.
Marusic was initially allowed by the tribunal in 2015 to continue her practice as a lawyer with several restrictions in place after she provided testimony under oath of ending her personal relationship with Martini due to his alleged improper financial actions.
Within months, however, Marusic also had her licence indefinitely suspended after it was learned by the law society through emails between the pair it was “misled” by Marusic about her ongoing relationship with Martini and how she further aided him to continue providing legal services despite his suspension “and in doing so failed to conduct herself with integrity.”
“There is no evidence Ms. Marusic ever resisted or attempted to dissuade Mr. Martini from assisting her or remaining involved in (legal) matters while suspended,” said the tribunal in its findings. “To the contrary, she continued to keep Mr. Martini informed about matters and to actively seek his assistance managing client demands.”
Over the years, Marusic has repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, appealed to have her license suspension lifted. Both lawyers then appealed jointly to the tribunal in late 2020 to have their longstanding suspensions lifted due to the lengthy delay of a final ruling on their fates.
In late 2021, while the hearing was ongoing, they also got married, according to findings presented by the tribunal.
The complicated case in front of the law society’s tribunal has involved several lawyers representing both Martini and Marusic, numerous hearings and witness testimonies. The hearing process has been further slowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The joint appeal by the pair listed “procedural unfairness” and “abuse of process” by the law society to reach a final verdict on their indefinite license suspensions.
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The law society countered its investigations — over 30 involving Martini and 10 involving Marusic — resulted in considerable time and legal battles to access information which often included personal computers and documents involving solicitor-client privilege.
“There were over 8,000 pages of disclosure,” concluded the tribunal. “Multiple complaints revealed allegations of misuse of trust funds. They could not be processed and investigated in isolation as the transactions all relate to the same accounts, books and records maintained by (the law firm).”
Martini listed in the appeal how the allegations have “destroyed his personal and professional reputation.”
But the tribunal in its decision to dismiss the motion cited how Martini remains currently employed and “risen to the position of executive vice-president.”