Sexual Harassment in SC Courts

Lawyers should not have sex with their clients. Or sexually harass their clients.

It feels like a no-brainer, and something the bar would pounce on – we are concerned about the near-universal reputation of the profession, right? Surely we will not tolerate men in the profession who prey on vulnerable women – many of whom may seek out an attorney when they are at the most vulnerable, darkest times in their lives?

So far, at least two male SC attorneys this year have been severely punished for their sexual behavior with female clients, each receiving a public admonition as they are allowed to continue representing vulnerable women.

In its defense, the SC Bar does slightly better policing attorney sexual harassers (a public admonition) than it does policing judges who are sexual harassers (*crickets*)…

Sexual Harasser #1’s Public Reprimand

In the first case, while representing her in a criminal case, the respondent:

  • Paid his female client’s bond;
  • Allowed her to stay in his home with him and his wife; and
  • Bought her clothes and gave her money.

It sounds like this good Samaritan has a big heart and wants to help people, although every item above is a violation of the attorney ethics rules. Before bonding her out, the attorney also made “sexually explicit,” “raunchy,” and “highly offensive” comments to his client on the jail phone (which is recorded).  He did the same with another client.

He was also busted by jail staff for smuggling electronic cigarettes to his clients in the jail – not a crime because electronic cigarettes are not considered contraband and they sell them in the jail commissary (I did not know that).

The lawyer said that the jail-phone conversations “were part of private conversations that he never imagined would become public” – FYI, any attorney who does not know that the jail records inmate conversations, particularly when there is a message at the beginning of the call that says you are being recorded, should not be representing criminal clients...

The Bar found that “such comments made to a client by a member of the legal profession are entirely inappropriate and they will not be tolerated.” Therefore, they issued a public reprimand and allowed him to continue representing clients…

Sexual Harasser #2’s Public Reprimand

Respondent’s client had just lost custody of her child while a prior attorney represented her. So, she hired respondent to help her get custody back. Her spouse died during the litigation. Like the previous case, this is a woman who may be in the darkest time of her life, who is extremely vulnerable and came to a licensed attorney for help

So, the attorney informs his client that he wants to have sex with her, and asks her to show him her breasts. She does, but felt “ashamed and humiliated.” After the attorney failed to get custody of her children for her, she terminated him and hired a new lawyer.

Wow. In this case, it wasn’t just verbal harassment that was proven – a member of the Bar, in a position of authority, coerced a vulnerable client to show him her breasts and told her he wanted to have sex with her. The Bar apparently will not tolerate this behavior either, found that “respondent’s conduct warrants a public reprimand,” and allowed him to continue representing women in his law practice.

The SC Bar Tolerates Sexual Harassment

A public reprimand is enough to ruin an attorney’s career, especially when the allegations were this serious. But, I am sorry. An attorney who uses his position of authority to coerce sex or to sexually harass his clients has no business practicing law.

The SC Bar does not take sexual harassment seriously. We could say, “well, it’s a bunch of older men making these decisions, what do you expect?” Except, it’s not. There are also female judges on the Supreme Court and in the office of disciplinary counsel. And, I’d like to believe that the men on the Supreme Court and in the office of disciplinary counsel care about sexual harassment as well.

Female attorneys don’t report sexual harassment by judges, because nothing will be done and they may be subjected to retaliation – hurting not only the attorney but also her clients. Male attorneys who may be serial sexual harassers are allowed to continue practicing law and representing vulnerable women.

Who can make the changes that will allow women, whether they are female attorneys or vulnerable clients, to feel safe and respected as human beings? And why aren’t they making those changes?

SC Criminal Defense Lawyer in Columbia, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach

Criminal defense and DUI defense attorney Lacey Thompson only accepts SC criminal defense cases in the Columbia, Lexington, Conway, and Myrtle Beach SC areas. Call at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form if you have questions or to set up a free initial consultation.

 

 

 

One Response to “Sexual Harassment in SC Courts

  • Mary Mooney
    4 months ago

    Thanks so much for your blog. This will help others come forward and file complaints.
    THANKS Keep up the good work.

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