Legal Ethics

Judge Will Be Ousted for Pursuing Lawyer; Order Is Effective One Day After Pension Vests

A judicial ethics panel is removing a 63-year-old Delaware family court judge from his job, but the order won’t take effect immediately.

Judge John Henriksen of Sussex County will be ousted on Nov. 2, one day after his judicial term expires and his $85,000 annual pension entitlement vests, report Delaware Online (sub. req.) and the Legal Profession Blog.

The Delaware Court on the Judiciary removed Henriksen based on its finding that he pursued an “inappropriately close social relationship” with a young female lawyer who appeared in his courtroom. The younger lawyer “clearly rebuffed” Henriksen’s overtures, but Henriksen continued to pursue the relationship and preside over the lawyer’s cases, the court’s order says. Henriksen had acknowledged inappropriate conduct for a three-month period in 2010.

A hearing board also found that Henriksen sent the lawyer an email in which he advised her how to prepare a legal memorandum on a contested issue, according to the order. Despite Henriksen’s advances, none of his decisions were impacted, the hearing board found.

The order noted Henriksen had a distinguished career for 11 years as a family court judge, and before that as a practicing lawyer. He will have to pay up to $10,000 of the lawyer’s therapy bills and 75 percent of the attorney fees for her and the family court.

Henriksen, who earns $172,000 a year, has been assigned to administrative duties. Delaware Online was unable to reach him for comment.

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