A member of the South Carolina bar, with an unblemished disciplinary record after 37 years of practice, has come crashing down from grace after getting a little too close to a client's wife.
The ABA Journal reported this week that the randy lawyer, who remains anonymous, was hauled before a hearing panel of the State Commission of Lawyer Conduct, which was tasked with deciding whether or not sleeping with a client's wife violated Rule 1.7 of the South Carolina attorney conduct rules.
After much consideration, the Commission dismissed the claims, but nonetheless took the opportunity to cast judgment on the man and give him a good slap over the wrist.
According to the Commission, the lawyer's behaviour was "morally inappropriate and ill-advised at best". But unfortunately for the lawyer, he did not get off that lightly.
In an opinion delivered yesterday (14 September), the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the affair did indeed violate the legal ethics rule.
"Sexual involvement with the spouse of a current client, while not expressly proscribed by the language of our Rules of Professional Conduct, unquestionably has the propensity to compromise the most sacred of professional relationships: that between an attorney and his or her client," said the court. "Attorneys who engage in a sexual relationship with their client's spouse do so at their professional peril.
"Consequently, this Court alerts the bar, in addition to admonishing respondent, that a sexual relationship with the spouse of a current client is a per se violation of Rule 1.7, as it creates the significant risk that the representation of the client will be limited by the personal interests of the attorney."
Gee, you think? Glad they engaged the bench to figure that one out.