Offering to trade legal services for sexual favors

by Walter Olson on August 11, 2010

Over dissents from two justices, the New Jersey Supreme Court has declined to disbar an attorney who made “repeated, demeaning and offensive suggestions to his clients” in “an effort to barter his professional services for sexual favors.” The punishment instead: suspension for a year and required sensitivity training. Solangel Maldonado at Concurring Opinions thinks the court was too lenient, arguing that an employer charged with similar conduct toward an employee would have faced extensive liability under sexual harassment law.

{ 13 comments }

1 Peter K. 08.11.10 at 5:35 am

I was somehow under the impression that it is considered per se unethical to have sex with a client.

Also I know there was an attorney discipline case in Oregon in the 1980s in which the attorney offered to forgive his bill in exchange for sex. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that since the lawyer’s services had a stated value in money, the attorney — by this conduct — was committing the criminal offense of prostitution.

2 Richard Nieporent 08.11.10 at 6:44 am

The court ruled that screwing your clients is the modus operandi of an attorney.

The majority of the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Helen Hoens held that disbarment was not warranted.

I wonder how he thanked her for her most generous ruling.

3 no name guy 08.11.10 at 9:14 am

The private sector goose would be cooked. The lawyer gander gets off with a slap on the wrist.

Compare and contrast to the recently canned HP CEO.

4 William Nuesslein 08.11.10 at 9:42 am

How about compensating class-action lawyers with discount coupons to the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada?

5 Anonymous Attorney 08.11.10 at 10:07 am

But gentlemen, when it’s just us lawyers here, we can be reasonable, can’t we?

6 Black Death 08.11.10 at 10:12 am

Bill Clinton solicited (and received) sexual favors from a White House intern and then lied about it under oath. For this, he received a five year suspension and a $25,000 fine from the Arkansas Supreme Court. In light of this, maybe the current decision is appropriate.

7 wfjag 08.12.10 at 7:14 am

This opens up a number of opportunities for attorneys advertising for their services:

“We have three ways to pay: Cash, credit or couch.”

“We don’t get paid till you get . . .”

I’m sure some others come to mind.

8 Aaron Worthing 08.13.10 at 4:03 pm

we had a case like that in virginia, in a general sense, that he would propose waiving fees in exchange for sex.

the police arrested him for solicitation of prostitution. And he was disbarred.

Certainly he should be arrested for it, unless the statute of limitations has run. People don’t really think about it but quid pro quo sexual harrassment, as in “sleep with me or you are fired” or “sleep with me and i will give you free services” is solicitation of prostitution. and if you acquiesce, you just remove the word “solicitation” from the mix and move up to actual prostitution.

9 Aaron Worthing 08.13.10 at 4:03 pm

btw, it also is not per se unethnical to have sex with a client. thank God, too, because i plan to represent my wife in court very soon.

10 Aaron Worthing 08.13.10 at 4:18 pm

Also on attorney client romance this might be a useful resource: http://www.lacba.org/showpage.cfm?pageid=7836

Here’s a link to the model rules of professional conduct which is notably not adopted in my state in regard to sexual relations. http://www.abanet.org/cpr/mrpc/rule_1_8.html

Virginia takes the view that multiple other general rules on conduct apply sufficiently to sexual relations so that they don’t have to spell it out.

11 Bill Poser 08.13.10 at 7:58 pm

Could it be that the court declined to disbar him because he is also subject to a tort suit which the plaintiff is likely to win? Discipline of lawyers does not in general preclude civil liability.

12 Aaron Worthing 08.16.10 at 12:44 pm

Bill

I will say i don’t believe they are supposed to consider other factors like this. this is about his fitness to be a lawyer, not punishment.

But then these rules are carried out by human beings, so who knows? but its not supposed to be as you imagined.

13 David Schwartz 08.17.10 at 8:32 am

I’ll dust off my ‘quid pro ho’ and ‘pro boner’ jokes.

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