Legal Ethics

County Atty Turns in Keys After License is Suspended Over '06 Relationship With Client

An elected county attorney in Iowa has reportedly turned in his office keys after the state’s top court today suspended his law license over a sexual relationship he had with a private client in 2006 while representing her in a child-custody case.

Floyd County Attorney Jesse Marzen declined to comment about the Iowa Supreme Court’s 5-2 ruling, which said that he took advantage of his client when she was “most vulnerable,” after being appointed to represent her in a Mitchell County mental-health committal hearing, reports the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

“This case goes beyond the vulnerability that is inherent in all attorney-client relationships,” the majority says in a written opinion to which Leagle provides a link.

A disciplinary board had recommended a three-month suspension, saying that there was insufficient evidence to prove sexual misconduct but calling for the lesser penalty because Marzen made confidential information about his client public. Attorney Roger Sutton, who represents Marzen, said the disciplinary board “got it right,” and was most familiar with the facts, having tried the case. He described his client as heartbroken, reports the Associated Press.

A KCCI article says court documents state that the former client accused Marzen of picking her up at a mental hospital and then taking her to his home for sex, in exchange for providing legal representation. While the supreme court said this claim of “sex for fees” was not proven, it said that evidence of a sexual relationship, in and of itself, under these circumstances warranted discipline.

The court also said that Floyd leaked information about his former client to a reporter in 2006, when her allegations came up during his election campaign for the county attorney job.

Marzen denied a sexual relationship with the woman and said she had made similar allegations against a probation officer in the past, receiving a $5,000 settlement, reports KCCI.

A spokesman for the Iowa attorney general’s office says a county attorney can’t do his job if his law license is suspended, the AP article reports.

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss appointing a replacement county attorney next week.

Updated on March 23 to link to court opinion.

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