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‘Serious concern’: Extraordinary allegations made by married lawyer couple to be investigated

A Sydney legal practitioner and her solicitor husband will be examined by the Legal Services Commissioner after they made serious but baseless allegations against senior counsel and a District Court judge.

user iconNaomi Neilson 06 July 2023 Big Law
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The NSW Court of Appeal has referred the whole of the papers relating to a number of extraordinary allegations made by Marie Odtojan and her husband Artem Bryl, who practise together as Odtojan Bryl Lawyers, to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC).

Judges Mark Leeming and Jeremy Kirk found the allegations made against senior counsel Miles Condon and junior counsel Nicolas Ford were made without any proper basis and that advancing the claims without that foundation was an “abuse of process”.

Ms Odtojan and Mr Bryl were invited to show cause as to why they should not be referred to the OLSC but failed to convince the court.


“If anything, [the materials] reinforce that such a referral is appropriate given their reiteration of serious allegations without any apparent proper foundation and the apparent misunderstanding of Ms Odtojan and Mr Bryl of their obligations as legal practitioners,” the court found.

The allegations arose out of a dispute with Credit Corp — acting under St George Bank — which brought proceedings against Ms Odtojan in the Local Court for the alleged unpaid credit and interest.

The Local Court upheld the claim against Ms Odtojan, and, following a September 2016 meeting, she was advised by Mr Condon, Mr Ford and senior counsel Thomas Glynn that there were “no reasonable prospects of success on any appeal” she may bring against Credit Corp.

This advice was the basis for Ms Odtojan and Mr Bryl’s allegations.

In a statement of claim, they accused Mr Condon and Mr Ford of conspiring “with the opposing party and legal team to pervert the course of justice” and accused senior counsel of participating in a “further conspiracy and of acting fraudulently” in the appeal prospects advice.

The couple then alleged a District Court judge who made a costs order in favour of Mr Condon was “biased and had acted in bad faith”.

Those who were involved in the preparation of the application books were also accused “without reasonable foundation” of “tampering with evidence and attempting to pervert the course of justice”.

Judges Leeming and Kirk said Ms Odtojan and Mr Bryl “repeatedly accused legal representatives of serious breaches of professional ethical rules, without any apparent reasonable basis” for doing so.

When he learnt proceedings had been filed against him, Mr Condon wrote to Ms Odtojan to say the allegations were “outrageous”.

“They are very serious allegations which include assertions of criminal conduct and should never be made without a proper foundation, particularly by a legal practitioner of the Supreme Court of NSW,” he said.

Following an exchange in the Court of Appeal, the court found neither Ms Odtojan or Mr Bryl were able to “point to anything approaching a proper basis for having made the conspiracy allegations”.

“They seem to take the view that because they did not like the advice Ms Odtojan was provided, then they are entitled to use court process to allege that the advice was fraudulent and made pursuant to some conspiracy without a shred of evidence for any such conspiracy or fraud beyond the fact that the advice was given,” the court found.

“That involves a grave misunderstanding of the ethical obligations of legal practitioners. To invoke court processes to make such allegations without a proper basis is an abuse of process.”

Judges Leeming and Kirk also found the couple continued to act under the impression that the Australian Conduct Solicitor’s Rules did not apply to them. They clarified Rules 5 and 32 applied to the couple.

In the case of Ms Odtojan, she argued she was excluded because she was a self-represented litigant, which Judges Leeming and Kirk found “misapprehended the obligations of a solicitor”.

Mr Bryl said he was excluded because he was acting as a McKenzie friend, an argument that was also found to be incorrect.

“The submissions which continue to be advanced by Ms Odtojan and Mr Bryl that they are not so bound, and that their being held to those professional rules is somehow wrong or unjust, is a matter of serious concern,” Judges Leeming and Kirk said in the judgment.

In the submissions against the referral, Ms Odtojan said allegations against Mr Condon could not be determined by the OLSC, and the Court of Appeal was attempting to place it “higher than the courts”.

This argument was also rejected.

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