Lawyers/Judges who sleep with clients or litigants: the legal/ethical provisions

Report: Lagos government fires judge who dissolved marriage and snatched plaintiff’s wife.

This news of a customary court judge in Lagos, Nigeria, who coveted/snatched a divorce seeker’s wife in a divorce petition in his court is funny and at the same time ridiculous, hence the reason for this post in order to substantiate what is the legal and ethical view of the legal profession in this case.

It is a rule in the code of ethics of most jurisdictions in the world that a lawyer must not have a sexual relationship with his client unless such a relationship has already existed before and a judge Judge should never have a sexual relationship or any form of relationship outside of the courtroom with any party in a case before the court.

Registration for the Tekedia Mini-MBA edition 9 (Sept. 12 – Dec. 3, 2022) has started. register here. The cost is N60,000 or $140 for the 12 week program.

As lawyers are in a fiduciary relationship with clients, many clients are in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis their lawyer and there may be the temptation or carnal urge to get into bed but any sexual activity between lawyer and client would be unethical and highly unprofessional to say the least, the lawyer could even be considered to have used undue influence or advantage to engage the client in sexual activities.

Most law firms and organizations prohibit this act, although in some organizations it is not written, however, it is an unwritten rule that every member of the organization is expected to observe that “You must not have sex with your client”.

It will also be very difficult for a lawyer or judge to maintain professional objectivity with the person the lawyer or judge has had a sexual relationship with and acts like this bring the most enviable legal profession into disrepute.

In many jurisdictions, sex with a client would likely result in professional discipline, up to and including suspension and even disbarment and outright dismissal of the judicial officer involved, and sex between a judge and a party in court that the judge presides are never heard of, it is a gross act of professional misconduct and highly unethical.

For example, the American Bar Association prohibits a lawyer from having sex with his client. In ABA Model Rule 1.8(j), independently promulgated and enforceable in various forms in all 56 states of United States jurisdictions, it provided the following:

“A lawyer can only have a sexual relationship with a client if there was a consensual sexual relationship between them at the beginning of the client-lawyer relationship.

This rule should not be extended to a person whose partner is a lawyer or be misunderstood that a lawyer should not represent a spouse or have the spouse as a client, but the condition is that the sexual relationship between that lawyer and the client must have existed before the person hired the lawyer and not after the person was hired as a lawyer. Thus, from an ethical point of view, a lawyer can represent his spouse and any other person with whom he slept before the beginning of the lawyer-client relationship.

The purpose of this rule is to limit excesses in the lawyer-client relationship and above all to prevent lawyers from exploiting the vulnerability of clients.

About the author