Friday, February 11, 2011
The Iowa Supreme Court has imposed a suspension of no less than eighteen months in a sex-with-client matter.
The attorney met the client on the day of her release from a mental health facility, where she had been treated for a suicide attempt. She sought his help in connection with the loss of custody of her three children. She revealed a history of drug abuse and prostitution. They had sex in his office at the initial meeting after the attorney had solicited a kiss.
The sex continued but the attorney-client relationship broke down. The client filed a bar complaint in 2007 and the attorney falsely denied the relationship. He also got the client to falsely deny the sexual conduct in a notarized affidavit. They then renewed their sexual relationship, marrying in October 2007.
As the court notes: "[t]he detente was short-lived..." The marriage was dissolved after six weeks. However, the attorney-client relationship resumed when the client was charged with contempt. They met at the Black Hawk County courthouse to discuss the case. In the courthouse library, the attorney
grabbed the client's buttocks as she entered the library. Believing it would induce [the attorney] to represent her the next day at the hearing on the contempt charge, the client began to perform oral sex on him. An unidentified third party entered the room and interrupted the sex act.
The attorney admitted the conduct to a district court judge on the day of the library encounter but continued to represent the client. He denied the conduct prior to the disciplinary hearing but admitted it when the matter was heard.
The court rejected charges based on the client's alleged diminished capacity to make adequately considered decisions. Further, the court rejected charges that the library sex was prejudicial to the administration of justice as the board "failed to prove that the sexual misconduct interfered with the efficient and proper operation of the courts."
The Attorney Disciplinary Board had sought a three-year suspension. (Mike Frisch)