The nation’s largest state bar association is overhauling ethics rules for attorneys for the first time in 30 years, and some lawyers are unhappy about a proposal that would open them up to discipline for having sex with clients.
California currently bars attorneys from coercing a client into sex or demanding sex in exchange for legal representation.
Supporters of an all-out ban say the relationship between a lawyer and client is inherently unequal, so any sexual relationship is potentially coercive. But some attorneys say it’s an unjustified invasion of privacy.
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.