The State Bar is asking for public comment on a new rule that would forbid lawyers from having sexual relations with a client unless a sexual relationship existed between them before the lawyer began to represent the client. Lawyers and the public have to make their views known by September 27, 2016. The new proposed rules will be submitted to the California Supreme Court by March 31, 2017. Once approved by the Supreme Court, the rules will apply to 190,000 active lawyers in California.
Rule 3-120 currently only prohibits lawyers from having sexual relations with a client in certain limited circumstances. For 22 years, there has not been one published case where the State Bar of California enforced the current rule. This lack of enforcement suggests that the rule is not effective to stop sexual harassment of clients. California’s current rule is different from the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rule that is followed by many other states. A change in the California rule to the ABA Model Rule would create a “bright-line” standard that says no sexual relations with a client.
The Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct has recommended a new rule (1.8.10) to set a bright-line rule against sex with a client. I support the Commission’s recommended rule.
In these very challenging times, we are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Let’s start to make our State Bar a part of the solution. If you are a lawyer, your dues matter, and what you do matters. If you are not a lawyer, your voice is still important and will be considered.
Public comment can be submitted online here. The deadline is September 27, 2016 by 5:00 p.m. If you are not able to use the online form, comments may be submitted by mail to:
Office of Professional Competence, Planning and Development
State Bar of California
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-1639
Tell the State Bar what you think. Tell me what you think! Do we want our State Bar to stop lawyers from having sexual relations with clients? Feel free to post your comment here.