Following is the 29th post in a series from Parker Law Group about recent changes to the California Bar Association (CBA)’s Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC). This rule is found in Chapter 1 – “Lawyer-Client Relationship,” focusing on the topic of lawyers who have sexual relations with a current client. The Rule of Professional Conduct, as revised, is as follows:
Rule 1.8.10 Sexual Relations with Current Client
(a) A lawyer shall not engage in sexual relations with a current client who is not the lawyer’s spouse or registered domestic partner, unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the lawyer-client relationship commenced.
(b) For purposes of this rule, “sexual relations” means sexual intercourse or the touching of an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.
(c) If a person other than the client alleges a violation of this rule, no Notice of Disciplinary Charges may be filed by the State Bar against a lawyer under this rule until the State Bar has attempted to obtain the client’s statement regarding, and has considered, whether the client would be unduly burdened by further investigation or a charge.
Several changes have been made to the new version of CBA’s RPC rule regarding sexual misconduct, as set forth above. For instance, subdivision (A) in Rule 3-120 of the previous RPC version – defining “sexual relations” – is now subdivision (b) in Rule 1.8.10. Subdivisions (B) and (C) of the old rule were combined and simplified into subdivision (a) in the new rule. Now, instead of spelling out specific ways a lawyer is not to behave sexually toward a client, and then explaining how a relationship that predates the lawyer-client relationship provides an exception to this rule, the new rule has reduced five paragraphs into a one-sentence paragraph.
The two biggest changes to this rule, though, are found in the final subdivisions for both rules. Subdivision (D) of the previous rule, explaining that other lawyers of a firm where a lawyer has been found guilty of sexual misconduct will not be disciplined, has been dropped from the new rule. And subdivision (c) in the new rule is brand new. This addition focuses on protecting the client who has been affected by the misconduct … if the complaint was made by someone other than the client.
Rule 1.8(j) of the American Bar Association (ABA)’s RPC says exactly the same thing as subdivision (a) of the CBA’s new rule. There is no other reference to sexual misconduct in the ABA’s RPC Rule 1.8.
Benefit: Generally speaking, the provisions included in this new rule do a better job of helping to protect a client from a variety of unwanted consequences that could occur due to a lawyer’s inappropriate behavior toward the client.
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Rules of Professional Conduct, California Bar Association, American Bar Association, Legal Malpractice, Client Rights, Legal Representation, Sexual Misconduct, Parker Law Group, Port Parker