Oklahoma Lawyer's License Suspended for One Year for having Sexual Relations with a Client
I was anxious to post the information about a recent disciplinary case which is rather interesting. Unfortunately, I have been incredibly busy the last week.
On February 22, 2005, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of State, ex rel. OBA v. Phillip John Anderson, 2005 OK 9.
The Oklahoma Bar Association filed a complaint against Phillip John Anderson for violations of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC), 5 O.S. 2001, Ch. 1, App. 3-A, specifically Rule 1.3 and Rule 8.4 . Lee Ann Stroud, Anderson's former client and the complaining witness, accused Anderson "of sexual assault against her in her home"; "of committing the crime of rape against her in her home"; and "of committing the crime of forcible oral sodomy against her in her home". Criminal charges against Anderson were filed but were later dismissed. Anderson "admitted having a sexual relationship with Stroud, and that he had had sex with her for the purpose of being hired to handle a medical malpractice case for her." Ironically, this medical malpractice case was against Stroud's former psychiatrist. Stroud had alleged that the psychiatrist had initiated a sexual relationship with her during her therapy. This sexual relationship lead to her divorce. Stroud hired Anderson for filing post-divorce contempt proceedings against her former husband.
Anderson had a history of having sexual relations with clients, including one divorce client whom Anderson later married.
In his testimony, Anderson stated that "he thought there was a specific ethics rule against having a personal relationship with clients, although he did not know which rule it was." "He stated he learned he should not engage in personal relationships with clients because of the toll it takes on him as the attorney and as a person."
The Court suspended Anderson's license for one year and assessed the costs of the proceeding. This holding was based (at least in part) on Anderson's lack of remorse. The Court distinguished the facts of this case from those of State, ex rel. OBA v. Robert F. Groshon, 2003 OK 112, 82 P.3d 99, in which the Court ordered the Respondent to be disciplined by a public censure because the Respondent showed remorse and because the incident appeared to be an isolated event.