Tuesday, December 7, 2010
From the State Bar of California web page:
The California Supreme Court today disbarred [a] Hollister lawyer...who had sexual relations with two incarcerated clients when he was a contract public defender. Disbarment is effective Jan. 1.
[The attorney] was charged in May 2004 by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel with engaging in sexual misconduct with two female clients who were incarcerated in San Benito County. [He]argued that the sex was consensual.
Over the objections of the chief trial counsel’s office, [the attorney] was admitted to the State Bar’s Alternative Discipline Program, which allows for substance abuse or mental health treatment before a case is decided. [He]entered into an agreement to assist in his recovery process from depression disorder, sexual disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
When he completed the program in 2007, the State Bar Court Hearing Department imposed a one-year stayed suspension and two years’ probation for his misconduct. State Bar prosecutors appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which, in 2009, ordered the State Bar Court to conduct further hearings.
Following the hearings, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz agreed that a stayed suspension was too lenient for [the attorney] and recommended disbarment. “Despite respondent’s successful completion of the ADP and LAP [Lawyer Assistance Program] and years of therapy,” Armendariz wrote in her disbarment recommendation, [he] “has not fully grasped the egregiousness of his offenses and the extreme harm he had caused the administration of justice and integrity of the legal profession.” The judge noted that [he] went so far as to argue that a mitigating factor should be that his misconduct accounted for no more than “an hour’s total duration.”
“Violation of one’s professional and ethical duties is not measured by the length of time,” Armendariz wrote. “Having improper sexual relations with a client breaches the basic notions of trust and integrity and endangers public confidence in the legal profession, irrespective of its duration . . . His persistent claims that the sexual relations were consensual and that [one woman] never told him to stop are indeed troubling and adversely reflect on his fitness to practice law.” The judge referred to an Iowa Supreme Court decision which stated that “the professional relationship renders it impossible for the vulnerable layperson to be considered ‘consenting.’”
The link may be found here. (Mike Frisch)