Ethics

Stayed suspension recommended for Taft Stettinius partner who allegedly had sex with client

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Updated: A partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister's Columbus, Ohio, office, should receive a stayed suspension for allegedly having sex with a client, according to a recommendation by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct.

The partner, Jessica Mager, had agreed to the discipline, report Reuters and the Legal Profession Blog, which links to the Feb. 4 recommendation. The board recommended a six-month suspension, stayed on the condition that Mager refrain from further misconduct.

Mager was representing the client in a divorce when she allegedly had sex with him at her home in October 2019. Two days later, the client got into a verbal and physical altercation with his wife, according to factual allegations cited by the professional conduct board.

The client was found dead at his home later that day. His death was determined to be a suicide.

Mager stipulated to violation of a conduct rule that bars sexual activity with a client unless a consensual relationship existed when the client-lawyer relationship began.

The board noted that Mager had no prior discipline, the misconduct involved a single client, and she displayed a cooperative attitude in the proceedings. Several judges, lawyers and former clients also submitted letters attesting to her good character.

Mager told Reuters in September, when disciplinary charges were filed, that she had “earned a reputation for integrity” in two decades of practicing law.

“However, two years ago, during a difficult time in my life, I made a serious error in judgment,” she said. “I have no one to blame but myself, and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

Mager’s lawyer, Jonathan Coughlan of the Coughlan Law Firm, sent an updated statement to the ABA Journal.

“There has been no decision,” Coughlan said. “This is simply a joint recommendation to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which makes the decision. In fact, the joint recommendation happened some time ago.”

Updated March 15 at 7 p.m. to include Coughlan’s statement.

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