Friday, July 16, 2010
The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended an attorney for 30 days for violation of the prohibition of sex with a client. The fact that the attorney represented the client in a marriage dissolution matter was treated as an aggravating factor. The attorney had thereafter represented the client in criminal matters. While the attorney withdrew from the dissolution case, he continued to "inject" himself into the proceedings. The court found that the preexisting sexual relationship at the time that the attorney undertook the criminal representation did not "legitimize" the attorney-client relationship.
As to sanction:
Clearly, [the attorney] needs a better understanding of his ethical obligations, the vulnerability of clients under the stress of a dissolution or facing criminal charges, and the impact a sexual relationship between him and his client has on his client and his own ability to professionally represent that client. Without this knowledge, [he] poses a risk to the public. We also note, however, that [he] has contributed a significant amount of time to the representation of clients on a pro bono basis. In addition, members of the bar and of the judiciary testified at the hearing that, other than the matter that brought [him] to the attention of the disciplinary authorities, he has practiced in an ethical fashion. Taking all of the pertinent factors into consideration, we concur in the commission’s recommendation that [his] license to practice law in this state be suspended for thirty days.
The court rejected the contention that a violation of the "sex-with-client" rule establishes a per se violation of the "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice" prohibition. (Mike Frisch)