(San Francisco) The largest state bar association has decided to give their ethics rules a huge overhaul, the first in over 30 years. Unsurprisingly, it has many lawyers a bit upset as the proposed new rules would ban them from having sex with their clients and subject them all to disciplinary action. While there is currently a similar ban in place prohibiting lawyers from coercing a client into sex or demanding sex in exchange for legal representation, many feel it isn’t enough.
Opponents are sure the new rules will be struck down as an “unconstitutional violation of fundamental privacy rights.” Also stating a ban is completely unnecessary.
I would like to know when CA will start focusing on ethics in government as well. Sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black to me.
FOX News reports:
The proposal is part of a long-awaited shake-up of the state bar association’s ethics rules for attorneys, which were last fully revised in 1987. Lawyers who violate the regulations are subject to discipline ranging from private censure to loss of their legal license.
A state bar commission has spent months crafting and amending 70 rules under goals set by the California Supreme Court. Other changes under consideration would allow the state bar to discipline attorneys for discrimination and harassment even without a separate finding of wrongdoing. The current rule requires a final determination of wrongful discrimination in a lawsuit or other proceeding before the state bar can take action.
Still another change would bring California in line with other states by subjecting prosecutors to discipline for failing to turn over evidence they know or reasonably should know would help the defense.
“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, a California appellate court judge and head of the commission revising the rules.
The sex ban has divided the rules revision commission, though similar restrictions are in place in other states. As of May 2015, 17 states had adopted a blanket sex ban drafted by the American Bar Association, according to an ABA committee that looked at implementation of the group’s ban.
Like the ABA ban, California’s proposal creates an exception when the sexual relationship preceded the attorney-client relationship.
At an October commission meeting, lawyer and commission member Daniel Eaton said the current rule regarding sex isn’t working, and pointed to a lack of disciplinary action against attorneys as evidence.
Between September 1992 and January 2010, the state bar investigated 205 complaints of misconduct under the current sex restriction, according to an analysis of state bar data that accompanied the proposal. It imposed discipline in only one case.
The current rule also forbids sex if it causes the lawyer to “perform legal services incompetently.”
A bright-line rule would provide clarity to attorneys and remove the difficulty of proving the sexual relationship was the result of coercion or negatively affected the lawyer’s performance, supporters say.
“If we have a very flat guideline, it gets out of the area of subjectivity,” said Andrew Servais, chair of the San Diego County Bar Association’s legal ethics committee.