I hate to do two posts in a row that deal with lawyers acting badly, but you take the news as you find it. While the last post dealt with a publicity hungry lawyer ignoring the rules regarding damage claims, this one is really, truly, ugly.
The Appellate Division (Fourth Department) suspended Rochester, New York attorney Lawrence Baker for two years for groping his adversary. Really. When I write grope, I really mean grope. As per the court in Matter of Baker:
In addition to the inappropriate conversation and conduct to which respondent admitted, the Referee found that respondent engaged in additional unwanted and highly inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature, including exposing his genitals to opposing counsel, twice kissing her on her neck and shoving both of his hands inside her blouse and bra and touching her breasts.
Sigh. I’m going to guess, and I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here, that Mr. Lawrence might be suffering from some kind of psychological issues. Because that ain’t normal for anyone. In the glass-is-half-full department, this is newsworthy because it is so abnormal. This isn’t exactly one of the issues that causes problems in the profession.
But in the glass is half-empty department, why wasn’t this guy disbarred? He even had a prior history of “engaging in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer,” among many other problems. For that he was censured.
When it comes to money issues regarding lawyers acting as fiduciaries, it seems the courts take a harsh stance. Sexual assault on your adversary is a lesser evil? This isn’t’ the first time the issue came up….From December 2008, with a very divided court on the subject: Sex Offender Keeps Law License
The atavistic impulse to grab the nearest damsel by the hair and drag her back to the cave for a bit of hanky-panky exists to some degree in all males. Fortunately for all, to the overwhelming majority of us this impulse never rises above the “wishful thinking” stage, or at least is preceded by dinner and a show and a diamond bracelet. This universality may be the ultimate reason for the apparent leniency in matters sexual.
One would then suppose that disbarment should stem from the fact that the damsel was also herself before the bar, and hence was this not, in a sense, contempt of court? Would he have been treated more harshly were the damsel a client?
If he is suffering from a serious psychological problem, people have probably been seeing his strange behavior all over the place. Yet it wasn’t until it came out in the actual courtroom that somebody said, “Hey, maybe this guy shouldn’t be representing clients…”
Grab her by the hair and drag her back to the the cave? Ah, gotta tell you Old Geezer, that is not one of my innermost thoughts.
Anyone with a bad history with get disbarred for this in Maryland, I think. I realize this does not directly impact our relationship with the public but, really, what are the odds this guy has not done something wacked out with one of his clients? 100-1?
Unanswered question… how long did all of this take to go down? Was this over the course of hours or was it all in one motion? Because I can’t see a woman staying in a room alone with a guy like that while this slowly progresses.
@Ron Miller –
Unanswered question… how long did all of this take to go down?
And they will likely stay unanswered as the court didn’t release her name. Best bet is that the physical assault was the last thing, and up until that time she figured she could fend him off and bide her time until the judge came back to chambers where they were waiting.