The Supreme Court docket of Ohio today suspended a Coshocton lawyer for two yrs, with the next yr stayed, for owning an inappropriate sexual partnership with a customer, then lying about it to disciplinary authorities.
In a for every curiam feeling, the Supreme Courtroom discovered Kevin Cox violated quite a few rules governing the expert perform of legal professionals when he experienced intercourse with a lady he was symbolizing for the duration of her divorce. The Courtroom rejected Cox’s argument that he justifies only a community reprimand coupled with supplemental continuing authorized education and learning needs for sending inappropriate text messages to his customer.
Throughout the disciplinary proceedings, Cox denied obtaining a bodily sexual marriage with the lady. The Court docket found “the proof clearly and convincingly demonstrates” the attorney experienced a sexual romantic relationship with his customer, sent her sexually billed text messages and e-mail, and lied about equally facets of the partnership.
Main Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner joined the belief. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only.
Law Company Discovers Sexual Messages
Cox worked for McCleery Regulation Agency in 2017. He was assigned to stand for a customer recognized in court docket documents as “V.W.” and was explained to to treat her with care simply because she was the firm’s most vital client, supplied the charges her case would create.
Cox represented V.W. until finally February 2019, when he withdrew from the circumstance. The McCleery Firm represented V.W. all through her divorce, which grew to become last in January 2020. A handful of months ahead of her divorce was closing, V.W. disclosed to the agency that she experienced engaged in a sexual relationship with Cox, stating they commenced having sex inside a few weeks of meeting in 2017.
In the course of her divorce proceedings, V.W. denied getting an “affair” with Cox. Right after the proceedings, Gregory McCleery, the principal of the McCleery legislation company, asked V.W. for proof with regards to the romance with Cox. She presented copies of numerous textual content messages and emails she exchanged with Cox.
McCleery first confronted Cox in February 2020 by showing him some of the messages V.W. presented. Cox denied he experienced a sexual romance with the shopper. McCleery filed a grievance with the Office environment of Disciplinary Counsel, which started an investigation.
Lawyer Denied Allegations
In his initial responses to the disciplinary counsel, Cox denied any sexual relationship. Through a November 2020 deposition, Cox testified that he did not recall sending textual content messages to V.W. and, when requested if it was “possible he despatched them,” he answered, “No.” Cox later claimed to the disciplinary counsel that he considered the textual content messages arrived from his cellphone.
Cox also denied the e-mail address employed to ship messages to V.W. belonged to him and denied working with the account to exchange email messages with her. The disciplinary counsel attained data from Google linking Cox to the account, and Cox later testified it was “possible” he sent the email messages to V.W.
Conflicting Accounts Introduced at Listening to
Based on McCleery’s grievance, the disciplinary counsel submitted a grievance against Cox with the Board of Skilled Carry out. A 3-member board panel performed a hearing, where V.W. and Cox introduced conflicting accounts of their romantic relationship.
V.W. testified that she and Cox routinely experienced sex, mostly at her house starting in 2017. She testified the romance deteriorated in February 2019 when she understood that Cox was nevertheless living with his wife, even however it was her knowing he was divided.
Cox had challenged the truthfulness of V.W.’s statements of a sexual romance, noting that in the course of the divorce proceedings she denied getting an affair with him.
V.W. explained to the disciplinary panel that, throughout her divorce, she did not equate possessing sex with Cox with an affair mainly because she was divided from her partner. She testified experienced she been asked in the course of the divorce proceedings if she had sex with Cox, she would have answered, “Yes.”
The hearing panel concluded that V.W.’s account of the partnership was extra credible than Cox’s. The board agreed with the panel’s conclusion that Cox violated various ethical regulations, which includes one particular that prohibits participating in sexual action with a consumer except a consensual sexual romance existed prior to the client-attorney romance. The board also observed Cox built phony statements in connection with a disciplinary make a difference and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Supreme Court Considered Attorney’s Objections
Cox objected to the board’s advice that he be suspended for two decades from the follow of legislation, with the next 12 months stayed with circumstances. The objections brought on oral arguments just before the Supreme Courtroom.
The Court’s belief pointed out that when the subject attained the panel hearing, Cox took some duty for sending the sexually billed textual content messages and emails, although however denying any actual physical romance.
The opinion mentioned that his objections contradict his individual statements. Cox denied possessing a bodily romance with V.W. and “inexplicably claimed” that any sexual activity involving the two was consensual.
“In brief, Cox has not cooperated in this disciplinary proceeding, has not approved obligation for his misconduct, and has not expressed genuine remorse for his actions,” the view mentioned.
The next yr of Cox’s suspension was stayed on the problem that he not commit additional misconduct and finish 6 several hours of continuing legal training targeted on correct behaviors and boundaries with consumers. He also ought to shell out the expenditures of the disciplinary proceedings.
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