The Gazette (Montreal)

Wednesday 13 October 1999

Divorce attorney guilty of dishonest tactics

The Gazette (Montreal)

Micheline Parizeau, the elegantly coiffed Montreal divorce lawyer of the elite, used dishonest tactics to help a client obtain $40,000 a month in alimony, a disciplinary committee of the Quebec Bar Association has ruled.

In a judgment rendered last Friday, committee members found Parizeau guilty of almost half of the 14 charges levied against her - including advising a client to commit perjury and falsifying evidence. The three-member committee will decide whether to disbar Parizeau, 55, at a later hearing.

The committee's decision, the culmination of five years of legal wrangling, will be appealed, Parizeau's lawyer, Simon Venne, said yesterday. "It's evident that she's not satisfied with the judgment," Venne said. "We will decide which points to appeal after the hearing."

In their judgment, committee members Claude Leduc, L.B. Erdle and Marie-Josee Champagne said they believed Parizeau's client, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban. The client said Parizeau advised her not to reveal that she had inflated her lifestyle just before filing divorce papers to obtain a better settlement.

Describing Parizeau as "a controlling person who likes things done her way," members argued that the attorney "fully decided which strategy to adopt and that she urged her client not to reveal the plans that had been made during the course of the testimony."

Parizeau was also found guilty of exaggerating her client's income and lifestyle, during her 1992 divorce proceedings. At the time, Parizeau's client asked for $40,000 a month in alimony, to cover the $2,300 she spends on vacations, $8,000 on fur and jewelry and $1,800 on clothing.

The committee said Parizeau should have known her client's demands were outrageous and relayed that to the court.

The judgment itself sends a message to all divorce attorneys, who have come under fire within their profession for exaggerating their clients' claims.

"It could serve as a guideline for the future," said lawyer Jacques Sylvestre, who initiated disciplinary proceedings against Parizeau in June 1994.

"Too often, the lawyer forgets he serves a public role before the tribunal," the judgment read. "The lawyer should never try to fool the court or influence the path of justice by curtailing the truth."