The California state bar association is considering banning lawyers from having sex with clients – and some lawyers aren’t too happy about it.
While the state currently bars lawyers from coercing or demanding sex for legal representation, ‘consensual’ sex has not been considered a violation of legal ethics, reports The Los Angeles Times. That could change.
Objection! If the proposed sex ban between lawyer and client is accepted, lawyers who break this ethics rule could lose their license
Supporters of the proposed ban say the relationship between a lawyer and client is always inherently power imbalanced, therefore sex should not enter the picture for a lawyer to ethically represent a client’s best interests.
But those who don’t support the ban say sex between lawyer and client is a private matter between consenting adults.
The state bar association’s ethics rules haven’t been updated since 1987.
‘The first and foremost goal is to promote confidence in the legal profession and administration of justice and ensure adequate protection to the public,’ said Lee Smalley Edmon, head of the commission revising the rules.
The California state bar association’s ethics rules for attorneys haven’t been fully revised since 1987
If the proposal is accepted, lawyers who have sex with their clients could potentially lose their license to practice.
The rule makes exceptions for lawyers who had a sexual relationship with a client before a legal relationship.
The sex ban is already in place in 17 other states.
But that ban seems to have done little to censure lawyers – of the 205 complaints of misconduct investigated by the association from 1992 to 2010, only one lawyer was disciplined.
Lee Smalley Edmon, above, is the head of the ethics rules commission
James Ham, a defense attorney who is named a Commissioner of the State Bar of California’s Rules Revision Commission and who doesn’t agree with the proposed sex ban, wrote in a dissent: ‘Proponents of a complete ban cannot articulate why a lawyer should be disciplined for sexual relations with a mature, intelligent, consenting adult, in the absence of any quid pro quo, coercion, intimidation or undue influence.’
The commission is considering 70 new proposed ethics rules. Another one would be that lawyers who fail to turn over evidence they know or reasonably know would help the defense could be censured.
The rules commission has until March 2017 to make a decision on the proposed sex ban and the other proposals and send them to the California Supreme Court for final say.