Lawyer who sought client relationship with 'daddy/daughter dynamic' gets suspension

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A Lancaster, Ohio, lawyer has been suspended after texting a client that he would like to share a “daddy/daughter dynamic” with her “in and out of the bedroom.”

In an April 27 opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered that the lawyer, Andrew Edward Russ of Lancaster, Ohio, be suspended for two years—with one year stayed on the condition that he commit no further misconduct. He will not be readmitted to practice until a qualified health care professional concludes that he is able to work in a professional manner with female clients.

Russ was suspended for his sexual overtures and for missed or late appearances on behalf of 10 other clients at court hearings.

The client is referred to as “C.L.” in the state supreme court decision, which summarized findings of fact in the case.

Russ had been appointed to represent C.L. after her newborn child tested positive for fentanyl. She was a vulnerable client because she could lose custody of the child, she had a mental disorder, and she did not have the support of her parents.

Russ began communicating with the client by text message. He offered her a job in his law office, and upon learning that she had particular issues with her father, he offered to serve as a father figure.

“Intermingled with those offers of help, support, and encouragement were Russ’ express solicitations of a sexual relationship,” the Ohio Supreme Court said.

At one point, Russ texted that he was sexually attracted to C.L. and stated, “I think we have that daddy/daughter dynamic goin’ on.” At another point, he said he always wanted a girlfriend with whom he could share “the daddy/daughter dynamic in and out of the bedroom.”

The client had complained in a text message to the baby’s father, even before she began receiving overtly sexual texts.

“My attorney is a creep. And I’m stuck with him,” she texted.

She later disclosed the inappropriate texts to the guardian ad litem assigned to her case, who filed a grievance with the Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Russ at first denied the allegations and suggested that C.L. had misled the guardian ad litem. When Russ learned that disciplinary authorities had obtained copies of the text messages, he acknowledged that he intended to solicit a sexual relationship.

There never was a sexual relationship, however.

Russ also stipulated that between August 2021 and April 2022, he was 15 minutes to an hour late for six hearings, and he failed to appear at four others.

Russ admitted that he violated ethics rules that ban sex with clients, false statements in disciplinary matters, conduct that reflects adversely on fitness to practice, and conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In mitigation, he did not have a prior disciplinary record and displayed a cooperative attitude in disciplinary proceedings “once confronted with the evidence against him,” the decision said. He was also found to be genuinely remorseful for his conduct.

He has submitted to a psychological assessment and begun counseling.

Russ didn’t immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s request for comment left in a voicemail listed by the Ohio Supreme Court and by an email to an address mentioned in the voicemail.

Publications with coverage include Court News Ohio, the Legal Profession Blog and the Columbus Dispatch.

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