Monday, August 1, 2011
From the August 2011California Bar Journal:
The State Bar Court found that [an attorney] committed four acts of misconduct, including acts of moral turpitude and having inappropriate sexual relations with two incarcerated, indigent female clients while acting as their public defender.
Over the opposition of the State Bar, [the attorney] was admitted to its Alternative Discipline Program in 2005 and completed the program about two years later. Although a hearing judge recommended a one-year stayed suspension and two years of probation, the bar appealed to the Supreme Court, which remanded the matter back to the bar court.
[The attorney] was the contract public defender for San Benito County from July 1, 1993, through February 7, 2001. While representing a convicted felon facing possible life imprisonment, he had sexual relations with his client three times while she was incarcerated in the county jail. Although he said the sexual relations were consensual and questioned the meaning of undue influence, the bar court characterized his arguments as “dismal . . . particularly in light of (his) many years of therapy with” organizations that include a Sexaholics Anonymous Twelve Step program.
During a visit with a second criminal client he represented, [the attorney] hugged her and patted her buttocks without her consent.
The bar court found that in both matters, [he] committed acts of moral turpitude and used undue influence in having sexual relations with incarcerated clients.
In mitigation, [the attorney] practiced law for 20 years without a discipline record and he participated in the Lawyer Assistance Program and the Alternative Discipline Program. However, in recommending [his] disbarment, Judge Lucy 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] moral deficiency is still profound.”