Thursday, May 2, 2013
It's a busy couple of days for the Ohio Supreme Court in dealing with sex-with-clients matters.
From the web page today:
The Supreme Court of Ohio has suspended the law license of Akron attorney William J. Detweiler for one year for repeatedly soliciting a client for sexual favors, and continuing to represent that client in an ongoing case despite the substantial risk that his own personal interests conflicted with those of the client.
In a 5-2 per curiam (not authored by a single justice) opinion announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline that Detweiler engaged in professional misconduct by sending a woman he was representing in a divorce action a series of increasingly sexual text messages over a period of several months, ultimately including a nude photo of his lower body and a request that she engage in oral sex with him.
The client, who never engaged in sex with Detweiler or even met with him socially, stated in a grievance filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that she felt “completely trapped” and unable to terminate her client-attorney relationship with Detweiler because she had already paid him more than $10,000 in legal fees and could not afford to hire a new attorney.
In response to the client’s grievance, Detweiler stipulated that he had engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, continued to represent a client despite the risk that his personal interests would limit his ability to act appropriately on her behalf, and solicited sexual activity with a client when there had been no consensual sexual relationship with that person prior to the attorney-client relationship.
While acknowledging the disciplinary board’s recommendation that Detweiler’s license be suspended for one year with six months stayed on conditions, the court noted that he was previously reprimanded in 2010 for engaging in an improper sexual relationship with a client, and concluded that Detweiler’s increasingly aggressive conduct in the present case called for the more severe sanction of a one-year actual suspension from practice, with reinstatement conditioned on no further misconduct, evaluation by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program, and compliance with any treatment recommendations.
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French. Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and William M. O’Neill dissented, stating that they would impose a one year suspension with six months stayed.
The court stated: "Not only did [he] make repeated unsolicited and unwelcome sexual advances on a vulnerable client, but when she ignored those advances, he upped the ante by sending her a nude photograph of himself in a state of arousal. Based on this disturbing escalation of the improper and offensive conduct [he] directed toward his client, we are not convinced that a fully stayed suspension will adequately protect the public from future harm."
The opinion is here.
In an unrelated matter, the court reprimanded an attorney who had sex with a client in a driving while intoxicated case.
The court found that the relationship did not impair the quality of the legal services. (Mike Frisch)