Thursday, May 2, 2013

More Sex With Clients Cases From Ohio

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)

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