Ban on lawyers having sex with clients proposed

January 08, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland Trial Lawyers Association is asking the Maryland Court of Appeals to adopt a rule prohibiting lawyers from having sex with their clients.

The group said in a letter that such a rule might help the legal profession's tarnished image and clarify matters by prohibiting behavior that some lawyers only consider unprofessional.

"Our organization felt strongly that such behavior by lawyers is a breach of fiduciary duty and severely undermines public confidence in the Bar when such events occur," the letter says.

Daniel M. Clements, association president, said the 1,500-member group believes a lawyer who has sex with a client loses the objectivity that is needed to handle a case.

"A client is owed a totally objective and unbiased opinion, which may include how effective the client would be as a witness. I can't imagine someone who sleeps with a client being totally objective about that person or their case," Mr. Clements said.

The Rules of Professional Conduct, which require lawyers to be objective and engage in "fair dealing" with clients, gives the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission the authority to investigate complaints about lawyers having sex with clients, Mr. Clements said.

But Mr. Clements said the group believes a rule specifically prohibiting sex with clients is imperative.

"Something should not have to happen to a particular lawyer or to a particular client to let people know where they stand on this," he said.

Mr. Clements said the letter also was sent late last week to the Baltimore City and 23 county bar associations and to the state's various legal groups asking for their support.

He said discussion of the issue began a few years ago, prompted in part by the case of George J. Goldsborough Jr.

Mr. Goldsborough, an Easton lawyer, had his license to practice law suspended by the Court of Appeals May 12, 1993, after complaints were filed with the Attorney Grievance Commission that he had spanked a former client and his 17-year-old secretary.

Authorities on legal ethics say such a rule is needed in Maryland.

"This is really a no-brainer. It's just wrong for a lawyer to sleep with his or her client," said Professor William I. Weston, who teaches legal ethics at the University of Baltimore Law School.

Professor Abraham Dash, who teaches ethics at the University of Maryland Law School, said the trial lawyers' recommendation is likely to pull considerable weight with the Court of Appeals.

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