Lawyer for accused in Marrisa Shen case cited by Law Society

In an unusual move, the Law Society of B.C. has cited a lawyer for professional misconduct in relation to an interview he gave to a news reporter.

The citation, which was issued Oct. 30, alleges that on or about Nov. 23, 2018, Danny Markovitz gave an interview in which he disclosed to a reporter confidential information of a former client, identified in the citation only by the initials I.A., that was contained in a Crown disclosure package.

The citation does not identify the reporter or say which media outlet Markovitz spoke to, or refer to the story in question, and it does not say what Crown disclosure was involved.

But Markovitz was quoted in a CBC story posted online on the same date in connection with him having initially represented Ibrahim Ali, who has been charged with the first-degree murder of Burnaby teen Marrisa Shen, whose body was found in Central Park. (This Ibrahim Ali is not to be confused with another individual of the same name and birth year who was convicted in a 2016 fatal hit and run.)

The article deals with questions surrounding police techniques used during the investigation of the July 2017 murder.

Ali was arrested in September 2018 after one of the most intensive investigations by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

The citation says the information disclosed breached one or more rules of the Code of Professional Conduct for B.C. lawyers in addition to an implied undertaking rule.

Citations are approved by the law society’s discipline committee and result in a lawyer facing a disciplinary hearing.

A spokesman for the law society, which regulates the province’s lawyers, said in an email that the society learned of the allegations from “the media report” and other sources, and under the rules governing the legal profession, the society has an obligation to investigate all complaints.

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“The investigation in this instance involved interviews and obtaining documents related to what has been alleged,” said the email. “The allegations in the citation have still to be proven in a disciplinary hearing before a panel that includes a bencher, a lawyer who is not a bencher, and an appointed public member.”

Asked whether the CBC story was the only “media report” involved and why it was such a serious matter requiring a citation, the law society said: “These are questions that may be taken up in a hearing of the citation, and so it would be inappropriate to comment.”

No date has yet been set for the hearing.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Markovitz, who no longer represents Ali, said that he had never before heard of the law society going after a lawyer for speaking to a reporter and in his opinion nothing he said deserves the actions taken.

“Nothing even remotely came close to being said that deserves this action,” said Markovitz, who added he had “no clue” why he was being cited. “I certainly didn’t hand anything to the CBC reporter in my conversation with her which I think lasted all of, because I was in a rush, maybe three of four minutes.”

While the law society is pursuing Markovitz, the CBC story remained online Tuesday.

In October, the Crown decided to proceed on a direct indictment against Ali, a move that resulted in dates previously set for a preliminary hearing being cancelled. Jury selection for Ali is set for Sept. 10 next year with the trial to begin Sept. 21.

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