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Prominent Nunavut and Ontario lawyer disbarred for bigamy, fraud after marrying 2 women

James Morton pleaded guilty in 2019 for bigamy and forgery for creating phony divorce papers to marry a second woman. Ontario's Law Society Tribunal has now revoked his licence to practise law.

James Morton was disbarred in Ontario and fined at his Law Society Tribunal Hearing

James Morton has been disbarred in Ontario for forging documents to divorce his wife in order to marry his law clerk. (LinkedIn)

A prominent lawyer in Nunavut and Ontario has been disbarred by Ontario's Law Society Tribunal for forging divorce documents and illegally marrying a second woman while he was already married.

James Morton's hearing was held Wednesday, where a three-person panel revoked his licence to practise law and fined him $4,500 to pay to the Law Society of Ontario, according to an endorsement document from the Law Society Tribunal. 

Morton pleaded guilty to charges of bigamy and forgery in a Ontario court on April 26, 2019, and was sentenced in September of that year. 

He was originally suspended from practising law in Nunavut and Ontario in 2018.

According to the reason for sentencing, Morton had forged a divorce order in 2018 to marry his paralegal while still being married to his first wife

Morton was married to his first wife — a Justice of the Peace he met at law school — for 30 years before that.

The charges

According to the reason for sentencing, a few years before the incident occurred, he started a relationship with his paralegal who had been working for him for 10 years. 

In 2016, Morton had moved his law office from the Greater Toronto Area to Hamilton. During a trip to Montreal in March 2017, Morton and the paralegal became engaged. At the time, she was still married and told him she was getting a divorce. Morton told her he was also getting a divorce. 

Morton and his new fiancée bought the house they had been running the law office out of in the summer of 2017, a few months after their engagement. 

In September 2017, Morton's fiancée received her legal divorce papers. Morton never filed for divorce and created phony papers he then showed her. 

They scheduled a wedding date and sent out invitations for May 12, 2018, at a golf club in Hamilton. 

Forged papers

With the wedding day approaching, Morton's fiancée was asking him to obtain a marriage licence that he kept saying he would deal with. The woman sent their law student to the courthouse with Morton's fake divorce order to obtain a certificate of divorce, which was needed to get the marriage licence. 

When the law student gave the court clerk the phony document, the clerk realized something was wrong and told the student the court couldn't issue the certificate until they found the file. 

The student returned to the office and told the fiancée what had happened and that the clerk would mail the divorce certificate. 

The court clerk notified the police of Morton's fraudulent divorce order on May 2, 2018. 

That same day, Morton went to Hamilton's city hall with a second forged document, a certificate of divorce, and obtained a marriage licence. 

Ten days later, the wedding went ahead. 

Police investigation

Meanwhile, police were investigating the phony divorce order and spoke to Morton's first wife on May 8, 2018. She told police she had spoken to Morton about it and that both of them were confused as to who or why anyone would make a fake divorce order.  

Police asked Morton the same day to come into the station for an interview. But Morton didn't go in for the interview until May 23, 2018, after his law student sent police pictures of the wedding to his second wife. 

In the interview, Morton admitted to police he had created the fake divorce order but that he never gave it to anyone because it wasn't real. He also told police that he never told his second wife that he was divorced. 

In a victim impact statement from Morton's first wife to the court, she said she learned on June 22, 2018, that "the husband [she] adored was facing criminal charges."

"My life as I knew it was gone. My hopes and dreams for the future were destroyed. Everything that we had discussed and planned was over."

On Sept. 11, 2019, Justice Howard Borenstein sentenced Morton to six months house arrest and 50 hours of community service. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie McKay

Reporter

Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC in Nunavut. She has worked as a reporter in Thunder Bay, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Jackie also worked on CBC Radio One shows including The Current, Metro Morning, after graduating from Ryerson University in 2017. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.

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