Hamilton (September 13, 2019) – James Morton, a once successful lawyer received a six-month conditional sentence and was ordered to perform community service due to being convicted of bigamy and fraud, in the Newmarket Ontario Court of Justice, on September 11. Judge Howard Borenstein explained his sentencing with the need to emphasize ‘denunciation and deterrence’ for lawyers engaging in fraudulent activities such as in Morton’s case.
With Morton’s sentencing, a charade comes to an end. The 59-year-old was running a successful law practice in the GTA and later in Hamilton, authored books, taught and mentored other lawyers. In the reason for sentencing, Judge Borenstein honored his life accomplishments and stated that Morton ‘has done a lot of positive things’. Then again, he clearly describes his dishonest, manipulative actions and the harm he caused to the integrity of lawyers in the justice system. Morton showed himself with ‘heartfelt deep remorse’ but did not offer any explanation for his actions. On April 26, 2019, he pleaded guilty to bigamy and forgery.
“My life as I knew it was gone.”, Rhonda
Shousterman in her victim statement.
A few years ago, Morton started an affair with his former paralegal Jennifer Packwood, while being married to Rhonda Shousterman, his wife of about thirty years. From that point on, he was leading a double life between Jennifer Packwood, his law practice in Hamilton on one side and his wife Rhonda Shousterman in the GTA on the other side. In March 2017, Morton and Packwood became engaged. At this point, they were both still married. However, she was getting divorced in September 2017 and he told her, he would also get divorced in the same month. In order to back up his story, he forged a divorce order and showed it to his fiancé.
As the wedding preparations went ahead, Morton avoided applying for a marriage license since he knew that he was still married and he would need a divorce order to do so. The scheduled wedding day was approaching, so Packwood asked the law student of the office to take care of the issue and gave him the bogus divorce order out of Morton’s drawer. While the law student did as he was told, the clerk at the courthouse had immediately sensed that there is something wrong with the document and started to investigate. When he found out that the order was fraudulent, he reported the issue to the police. Four days before the wedding date, the police contacted Morton for an interview, which he postponed until after the wedding on May 23rd. In the meantime, Morton forged yet another document, a certificate of divorce, in order to apply for a marriage license. The wedding of Morton and Jennifer Packwood took place on May 12, 2018, despite the fact that Morton knew that a police investigation was ongoing. Thereafter, he was interviewed by the police and at first, he denied everything. After the police had shown him unmistakable evidence of his misconduct, he ended the interview.
“[H]e has now lost it all.”, concluded
During the trial, both affected women, Packwood and Shousterman, gave impressive victim impact statements where they described how they were deceived and betrayed as well as the emotional, financial, and social consequences they had to carry as a result of Morton’s offenses.
On Wednesday, Judge Borenstein ordered a six-month conditional sentence and 50 hours of community service for Morton. He explained that with the verdict, he wanted to achieve, on the one hand, a restrained and compassionate sentence for a highly accomplished and genuinely remorseful 59-year-old man. On the other hand, judge Borenstein wanted to emphasize ‘denunciation and deterrence’ because of Morton’s ‘dishonest manipulation of the court system’ with which he consciously damaged the ‘integrity of counsel’.
‘He was successful, and he has now lost it all. That is one consequence he will suffer regardless of what sentence I impose. He is suspended by the Law Society and likely will not be allowed to practice again. He said he has no desire to seek admission to the Bar again.’, Borenstein concluded.