April 1, 2008
Suspension For Sex With Incarcerated Client And False Denials
A Pennsylvania lawyer was suspended for 90 days for engaging in sexual activity with a client who was incarcerated at the Lehigh County Prison. The lawyer had developed a "close personal relationship" with the client, whom she had met when he was 15. He was 28 at the time of the incident at issue. The lawyer had signed into the jail as an attorney and identified the purpose as "legal." The visit lasted 2 1/2 hours. An officer had a "feeling something was wrong" and looked into the interview room and saw what he believed was intercourse (the precise observations are detailed in the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board's report). The lawyer also made false statements to both prison officials and in the bar discipline case.
After five days of hearings, a hearing committee found that the officer's observations were credible and that, as the board stated "it is clear that at some point in the lengthy visit sexual contact occured. This contact constituted open lewdness and aiding and abetting in indecent exposure." The attorney's false denials to prison authorities were "understandable...but...not excusable." The board recommended a public censure, which the court rejected in favor of a 90 day suspension. The hearing committe had proposed a 120 day suspension. Disciplinary Counsel had sought a suspension of a year and a day, which would have required the attorney to petition for reinstatement.
The sanctioned attorney "didn't trust the disciplinary process and did not believe her personal life should be questioned in detail." It is also noted that the attorney "has been very active in political activities, serving in various capacities in the Republican Party in Montgomery County." (Mike Frisch)
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Interesting: discipline based on infringements of Rule 8.4 (a), (b), (c). No invocation of Rule 1.8 (j), which deals directly with sexual relations. I suppose here it possibly could be considered a pre-existing sexual relationship. Doubtful.
Posted by: John Flood | Apr 2, 2008 10:24:01 AM