The Vermont Supreme Court has published for comment a proposed rule that would ban lawyer-client sexual relationships that do not pre-date the professional relationship.
Finally, here’s the language from the cover memo that accompanied the proposed rule:
- The proposed amendment deletes Comment 12 to Rule 1.7 due to the simultaneous proposalto add Rule 1.8(j), which explicitly precludes a lawyer from having a sexual relationship with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed when the client-lawyer relationship began.
- The proposed amendment to Rule 1.8(j) adds a prohibition on sexual relations between alawyer and client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.
- The proposed amendment to Comment 17 clarifies that the rule applies
to all sexual relationships formed after the commencement of the professional client-lawyer relationship, including consensual sexual relationships and sexual relationships in which there is no prejudice to the client’s interests in the matter that is the subject of the professional relationship. In such instances, a lawyer must withdraw from continued representation. See V.R.Pr.C. 1.16(a)(1).
- The proposed addition of Comment  provides guidance on sexual
relationships that pre-date the commencement of the client-lawyer relationship.
- The proposed amendment renumbers former Comment  as Comment  and clarifies that the conflict created by Rule 1.8(j) is personal for purposes of imputation. See V.R.Pr.C. 1.10.
- The proposed new rule 1.8(j) tracks Rule 1.8(j) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Vermont joins 31 other states in adopting a specific prohibition on client-lawyer sexual relationships.
- The proposed amendment is a “bright-line” rule that recognizes the serious risk to a client’s interest in receiving candid, competent, and conflict-free legal advice that is presented when the professional relationship turns sexual. Further, the proposed amendment is consistent with the fact that at least 18 of Vermont’s other licensed professions have adopted rules that specifically ban sexual relationships between a licensee and a client, patient, or person with whom the licensee has a professional relationship.
- Comments on this proposed amendment should be sent by December 18, 2017, to Michael Kennedy, Bar Counsel, at the following address:
Michael Kennedy, Bar Counsel
Office of Bar Counsel
32 Cherry Street, Suite 213
Burlington, VT 05401