New Brunswick

Saint John lawyer suspended, fined for having relationship with client

Saint John lawyer Barry Morrison has been fined $3,000 and is suspended from practising law for three months after admitting to a sexual relationship with a client.

Lawyer Barry Morrison is now retired and lives with former client in common-law relationship

Barry Morrison has been suspended from practising law for three months and fined $3,000 for having a sexual relationship with a client. (CBC)

A Saint John lawyer has been fined $3,000 and is suspended from practising law for three months, after admitting to a sexual relationship with a client.

Barry Morrison's suspension went into effect Oct. 17, after a joint agreement was presented to the discipline committee of the Law Society of New Brunswick. 

"I admit that I fell in love with my then client, Miss A, during the time of my retainer by her, her company, and by Mister A," Morrison wrote in his reply to the New Brunswick Law Society's disciplinary committee.  

He also described the relationship as consensual and denied any form of harassment. 

And he said Miss A is now his common-law wife. 

Cases rare

Cases like this are very rare, said Shirley MacLean, registrar of complaints.

"As a lawyer, it's your obligation to give objective, disinterested, professional advice to your client," she told CBC News.

"If you have a personal and sexual relationship with your client, that, in all probability, cannot occur." 

In 2013, Bathurst lawyer John Calver was disbarred and fined $5,000 after he admitted to a personal and sexual relationship with a woman he had been retained to represent in a separation and divorce.

The discipline committee also noted that after Calver withdrew from representing the client, he failed to deliver to her all her papers in an expeditious manner.

Calver also admitted to taking the woman to a meeting where he made misrepresentations to third persons that she had legal training and was at the meeting in that capacity. 

Retired after long career

MacLean said Morrison retired from practising law prior to the discipline committee's final hearing on his matter. 

The suspension still applies as a retired lawyer remains a member of the bar association and could choose to return to practising law. 

Morrison made headlines back in 2012 as legal counsel for Saint John's pension board in a failed defamation lawsuit against former Saint John City Councillor John Ferguson.

Focus on legal fees

The jury concluded Ferguson was well within his rights to criticize management of the city's deficit-plagued pension fund while he was a councillor.

The legal fees in that case became a separate focus of attention.

Documents showed the pension board's legal fees jumped to an average of $442,500 a year once the lawsuit against Ferguson commenced, up from $30,000 in 2006, prior to the action.

Between 2007 and 2010, the board was charged a total of $1.77 million in legal fees, according to the financial statements.