Legal Ethics

Client In Love Relationship with Lawyer Gets Better Representation, Lawyer Argues

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A bankruptcy lawyer fighting ethics charges in Connecticut maintains that clients who want good representation may be better off if they are in a romantic relationship with their lawyers.

Zenas Zelotes is appealing a disciplinary panel recommendation that he be presented to the superior court for disciplinary action based on his relationship with a woman he represented in a divorce case, the Norwich Bulletin reports. He argues that a ban on intimate relationships with clients is counterproductive and unconstitutional.

“This is aggressive judicial paternalism versus freedom of association,” Zelotes tells the Norwich Bulletin.

The Connecticut Law Tribune reported on Zelotes’ case earlier this month. The disciplinary panel said the evidence was insufficient that Zelotes’ relationship with the woman was sexual. (Zelotes had admitted that the relationship was “intimate” but denied it was sexual.) But the panel found nonetheless that the “burgeoning romantic and intimate relationship” materially limited the representation.

According to the disciplinary panel, Zelotes explained why he thought an intimate relationship with clients is not problematic. “When you are representing someone you have love and affection for, you’re going to work twice as hard and there’s no question about it. It is not a detriment to the relationship,” Zelotes reportedly said. “My advice to a woman going through a divorce is, find a competent trial lawyer and make him your boyfriend.”

Zelotes told the Norwich Tribune that the disciplinary panel report was “replete with errors” and he’s willing to take the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Zelotes was previously in the news for filing ethics ethics complaints against more than 500 lawyers who paid a bankruptcy website for client leads. Zelotes tells the Norwich Bulletin he has moved to Pennsylvania “for love” and has been representing his fiancée for five years. He also challenged a bankruptcy law barring lawyers from counseling clients to take on more debt.

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