California Lawyers Upset Over Proposed Client-Sex Ban

Some complain proposed rule goes too far
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2016 4:49 AM CST
Calif. May Ban Sex Between Lawyers, Clients
Seventeen states already ban sex between lawyers and clients.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Ethics rules for lawyers in California are undergoing their biggest shake-up in 30 years, and some lawyers aren't happy about one proposed change: a near-total ban on having sex with clients. A state bar commission has proposed joining at least 17 other states in completely banning sex between lawyers and their clients, with exceptions only made when there's a pre-existing sexual relationship, the AP reports. Punishment could go as far as having legal licenses revoked. California currently only bans attorney-client sex if it causes the lawyer to "perform legal services incompetently" or if sex is demanded "incident to or as a condition of any professional representation."

Supporters of the ban say the current rules aren't working, noting that out of 205 complaints of sexual misconduct between 1992 and 2010, the state bar only disciplined one lawyer. "Let's face it, clients only come to you when they have a problem. Many clients are vulnerable in that situation. And we're just trying to establish protections," a law professor who served as a consultant to the revision committee tells Capital Public Radio. In a dissent filed with the commission, lawyer James Ham argues that ban supporters are unable to explain why a lawyer should be "disciplined for sexual relations with a mature, intelligent, consenting adult." (New lawyers in California have to swear an oath to be nice to each other.)

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