The summary of the Law Society of Ontario tribunal ruling against Tecumseh lawyer Robert Joseph Comartin, January 13, 2020. Blackburn News photo.

Tecumseh lawyer guilty of unprofessional conduct

A local lawyer accused of misappropriating a client’s estate funds has been found guilty of that conduct.

According to the decision published by the Law Society of Ontario, Robert Joseph Comartin was found responsible for conduct unbecoming a lawyer, and misappropriating money. He was also found guilty of dishonest behaviour and inappropriate billing. All of these charges were related to his handling of an estate trust.

A two-day disciplinary hearing was held on November 6 and 7, 2019, at the Law Society’s headquarters in Toronto. The decision was rendered on December 27. Comartin did not appear at the hearing, and it was not clear whether or not he had legal representation.

“The panel found that [Comartin], in acting as solicitor for estate trustees, fell below the standard of a competent lawyer by failing to keep dockets, obtain approval for accounts, ensure representation for a vulnerable beneficiary at the passing of accounts, serve documents on all required parties, and advise the trustees and attorneys holding powers of attorney of their obligations,” read the ruling.

Also, the tribunal found that Comartin misappropriated $2,400 when he billed the client’s estate for a spot audit and failed to adequately disclose the amounts he had paid himself from the estate. The tribunal also ruled that Comartin did not disclose a potential conflict-of-interest since he was both the estate trustee and a lawyer representing the primary beneficiary of the trust.

The tribunal also found that Comartin “engaged in conduct unbecoming” by paying himself a total of $352,494 in legal fees for work done on the estate trust, plus $9,450 for “work done as co-attorney although the power-of-attorney prohibited remuneration.”

A penalty hearing has not been scheduled.

According to a listing in the Yellow Pages, Comartin’s firm handles cases pertaining to estate administration, real estate law, divorce and separation.