Legal Ethics

Lawyer With 'Couch of Restitution' Disciplined in Michigan

Disciplinary authorities have sanctioned a Michigan attorney by suspending his license to practice for 180 days after a string of sensational allegations, including that he offered clients a “couch of restitution” to pay off their legal fees.

An opinion released Nov. 23 by Michigan’s Attorney Discipline Board (PDF), upholds a lower-level finding of misconduct against the lawyer.

As the Legal Profession Blog notes, the lawyer had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in 2001, but failed to report the conviction to the bar.

Disciplinary authorities learned about the conviction when a former client filed a request for an investigation of the attorney. According to the board opinion, the client reported the incident after she engaged in sexual activity with the lawyer, but received a bill for legal services anyway.

And more than one client complained to authorities that the lawyer had offered them the “couch of restitution” in exchange for legal services.

The board opinion notes, “The high degree of similarity of these separate accounts established respondent’s system of making sexual overtures to female clients who were seeking legal assistance in a domestic matter. These overtures occurred during a discussion of his legal fees.”

The lawyer in question, who’s been the target of previous discipline, has denied the allegations and explained that he didn’t report the conviction because he thought prosecutors had done that and because it had been later set aside.

By upping the discipline to 180 days, the disciplinary panel ensures that the lawyer being sanctioned will have to undergo fitness proceedings before being reinstated.

“Taking into consideration the range of professional misconduct in this case, we conclude that protection of the public, the courts and the profession requires that respondent be suspended for a sufficient period of time to ensure that he is not permitted to resume his standing as a member of the profession unless he is able to establish his fitness by clear and convincing evidence,” the opinion states.

Hat tip: Legal Blog Watch.

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