01:49 GMT +321 August 2019
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    California Wants to Ban Lawyer-Client Sex

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    After 30 years, the California State Bar Association is redoing their ethics rules, and one new proposed rule would ban lawyers from having sex with their clients.

    A heated debate has now erupted, between lawyers who want to have the option to legally have sex with a consenting-adult client, and those who think that a sexual relationship between an attorney and a client is naturally unequal, and therefore potentially coercive in any situation.

    "Proponents of a complete ban cannot articulate why a lawyer should be disciplined for sexual relations with a mature, intelligent, consenting adult, in the absence of any quid pro quo, coercion, intimidation or undue influence,” James Ham, a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association's ethics committee, wrote in his dissent.

    Currently in California, it is legal for an attorney to have sex with a client,  as long as it is not in exchange for representation or brought on by coercion. The practice is already near-fully banned in at least 17 other states, with some exceptions, such as in cases where the sexual relationship was preexisting.

    Under the proposed reforms, an exception would be made for lawyers who represent their spouses or registered domestic partners.

    Opponents of the bill, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association's ethics committee, argue that it would be a massive privacy violation, and that it does not make sense, as long as all parties to the act consent, and are of legal age to do so. Opponents argue that making rules about what consenting adults are able to do in private is beyond the association’s mandate.

    Proponents of the bill argue that people who need legal assistance are often in a troubled state, and are vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

    "Let’s face it, clients only come to you when they have a problem. Many clients are vulnerable in that situation. And we’re just trying to establish protections," Kevin Mohr, Western State College of Law professor and consultant to the bar committee in charge of the revision, told Capital Public Radio.

    The bar's board of trustees approved an additional public comment period on the sex ban rule earlier this month. The rules commission has until the end of March 2017 to get the board's approval for the proposals and send them to the California Supreme Court, which will have final say.

    The state’s Board of Trustees and Supreme Court must vote to approve the bill, and the rules commission has until the end of March 2017 to send the proposals to the court.


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    Ethics, Sex, Supreme Court, California Bar Association, Los Angeles County Bar Association, California
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