Sunday, May 22, 2022

Evidence Of Romance

The Ontario Law Society Hearing Division has found misconduct in a high-profile disciplinary matter involving two Respondents

Claudio Martini was called to the bar in 1989. He had a highly successful and extremely busy litigation practice. Maria Marusic was called in 1993. She also was an accomplished and busy litigator. Mr. Martini and Ms. Marusic began working together in 1993. In 2000 they became law partners. In 2001 they became romantic partners. In 2010 they established Shulgan Martini Marusic LLP (SMM) together with Myron Shulgan. In late 2021, while this hearing was ongoing, they married.


MARUSIC – Failing to Assist in Preventing the Unauthorised Practise of Law – Failing to Act with Integrity – In 2015, after hearing how the Lawyer’s relationship with Martini had ended, the Tribunal imposed restrictions on the Lawyer’s licence – The panel found that the Lawyer had misled the Tribunal about the nature of her relationship with Martini and thus failed to act with integrity – She also failed to assist in preventing Martini’s unauthorised practise of law and provision of legal services – The Lawyer associated with and used the services of Mr. Martini without the requisite express approval of the Hearing Division – The panel directed that dates are to be set for a hearing on penalty.

MARTINI – Misappropriation of Funds – Providing Legal Services While Suspended – Motion to Stay Based on Delay – The Lawyer was suspended as of April 22, 2015 – The Lawyer admitted to repeatedly breaching escrow but denied misappropriation on the basis that the action had been assigned to him – The panel found that the Lawyer had misappropriated funds – The Lawyer also continued to provide legal services while suspended – The panel concluded due to the nature of the proceedings and the Lawyer’s own contribution to the delay, the delay here did not rise to the level of inordinate – The motion to stay was dismissed and the panel directed that dates are to be set for a hearing on penalty.

We had previously reported on the denial of an interim suspension of Ms. Marusic, which was here found to be based on her false testimony

 In March 2015, Ms. Marusic swore an affidavit responding to the Law Society’s application for an interlocutory suspension of her licence. In her affidavit, Ms. Marusic disclosed her personal relationship with Mr. Martini for the first time and made clear it had ended.

I was involved in a personal relationship with Mr. Martini for many years. During that time I believed much of what he told me. I believed that although legally married, he had been separated from his wife for a number of years. Unfortunately, I now know that he repeatedly lied to me. Our personal relationship is now over.

In an emotional cross-examination on April 1, 2015, Ms. Marusic confirmed the relationship had ended sometime between March 13 and 23. Asked to explain why the relationship ended at that time, Ms. Marusic testified that, “in the last months,” she discovered Mr. Martini had told her numerous lies about his wife’s health. Her evidence before the first hearing panel was moving and convincing. She testified their relationship was over.

Ms. Marusic argued that the fact Mr. Martini was under suspension, and she had ended her personal relationship with him, weighed against imposing a suspension on her.


 The e-mail communications between Ms. Marusic and Mr. Martini concerning the Client B file and other files establish they were in close, frequent e-mail communication between January and August 2015. Their e-mails between March and April 17 concerning the expert report for Client B do not demonstrate any strain or difference in tone suggestive of a rift in the relationship. While they may not have seen each other between the end of March and the April trial preparation meetings with Client B, their e-mail communications show no change from e-mails sent prior to Ms. Marusic’s discovery of Mr. Martini’s lies.

When Mr. Martini tells Ms. Marusic in their May 11 e-mail exchange, “ok I will stay out of it,” Ms. Marusic almost immediately responds “What do you mean? I want you in it.” She clearly wants his support on the Client B litigation and her response cannot be squared with the description she gave less than two months earlier of Mr. Martini as a liar and a fraudster who had victimised her with his deceitful ways.

 Their e-mails also contain phrases and statements out of keeping with professional communication. Both Mr. Martini and Ms. Marusic end e-mails with endearments such as: “love me”, “love you”, and “babes.” For example, their e‑mail exchange sent May 26 begins with a discussion of witness preparation and then moves on to an intimate exchange as follows:

CM:    The defendant production 837 contains a transcript of Cedilot interview.........I have read it. It doesn't say much about [Client B] at all. The RCMP suggest that [Client B] should have done more and been aware of the inflated prices but Cedilot does not agree.

I attach the pages that deal with [Client B] make it easier for you to review.........

MM:    OK baby love. Love you

CM:    Love you.......trying to be happy and normal.

MM:    We are happy but never normal. Love you

CM:    ): Really miss you a lot. Especially at night. Sorry

The Hearing Division did not judge the relationship; rather, it considered 

The e‑mails containing endearments and intimacies, the sleeping arrangement discussions, and the exchange about living together easily lead to the conclusion Ms. Marusic and Mr. Martini were once again much more than professional partners to each other.

The May e-mails discussing where Ms. Marusic wanted Mr. Martini to stay when in Ottawa and missing Mr. Martini at night are clearly not business or professional conversations. They are communications which a practical and informed person would conclude took place between persons in a romantic relationship.

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