California is one of the few states where attorneys are allowed to have sex with their clients. But now the state Bar Association is looking to change that.
California’s attorney code of conduct hasn’t had a major overhaul since the 1980s. Right now, attorneys can have sex with clients, unless the state Bar can prove that’s in exchange for services or leads to incompetent services. Western State College of Law Professor Kevin Mohr is a consultant to the bar committee in charge of the revision.
"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," Mohr says.
The revised rule would ban attorney-client sex, unless the sexual relationship existed first or it’s between spouses. The change has drawn criticism from some attorneys, including at the state Bar.
"Well, I mean, this is a tough issue," Bomse says.
Attorney Amy Bomse sits on the state Bar committee that advises on ethics.
"We’re a complex society," Bomse says. "People, adults, can form intimate relationships that are not coercive, including clients and lawyers. And to categorically make that impermissible just felt like going too far from my personal perspective."
Before the new rule would go into effect, the Bar’s Board of Trustees and the state Supreme Court must vote to approve it —a process that will take at least months.