June 15, 2010
Attorney Discloses Confidences To Obtain Custody Of Client's Child
An Arizona hearing officer has recommended a six-month suspension retroactive to the date the attorney was place on voluntary inactive status and one year of probation for misconduct that took place in somewhat unique circumstances. As we often have seen, a strong personal connection between an attorney and client can result in what can only be characterized as questionable judgment.
The attorney represented the client in a divorce. He learned that the client had and was using illegal drugs. They began a sexual relationship and, during that time, the attorney began to act "as a de facto father to [the client's] infant daughter. " The divorce litigation ended without the attorney moving to withdraw, although he had intended to do so but mistakenly not filed the motion.
Several years later, while still counsel of record for the client, the attorney filed a petition for custody of the daughter under the same court number as the divorce action. He disclosed confidential information about the client's drug use out of concern for the daughter's welfare. Eventually, he withdrew as counsel for the client and was awarded temporary custody of the daughter.
The client was arrested and charged with transporting illegal drugs. The daughter was in the car at the time of the arrest. Custody was returned to the attorney. Attorney and (now former) client now share legal custody of the daughter. (Mike Frisch)
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