review of the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance
commission recommends the suspension of an attorney's
license for thirty days for a violation of ethical rules.
van Brederode and Elizabeth E. Quinlan, for complainant.
L. Brown of Hansen, McClintock & Riley, Des Moines, for
attorney engaged in an intimate relationship with one of her
clients whom she was representing in a marriage dissolution
matter. The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board
charged the attorney with a violation of Iowa Rule of
Professional Conduct 32:1.8(j) (sexual relationship with a
client). Though the attorney initially expressed her
disbelief at the charge when the Board sent her a notice
letter requiring her to respond to the alleged misconduct,
she admitted her wrongdoing soon thereafter and fully
cooperated with the Board.
parties reached a factual stipulation, agreeing that the
charged violation occurred. The grievance commission
considered the matter without a hearing and concluded the
attorney violated rule 32:1.8(j). The commission recommended
the attorney's license be suspended for thirty days. Upon
our de novo review, we conclude that the attorney violated
rule 32:1.8(j). We agree with the commission's
recommended sanction and suspend the attorney's license
to practice law for thirty days.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Nine is a solo practitioner in Marshalltown who was admitted
to the Iowa bar in 2001. In April 2011, John Doe retained
Nine to represent him in a marriage dissolution matter, which
continued until August 22, 2012. While the dissolution matter
was still pending in August 2011, Nine and Doe began an
intimate relationship. Doe and Nine were not married to each
other at the time of the intimate relationship.
unclear when exactly the intimate relationship between Doe
and Nine ended. However, on March 1, 2016, the Board sent
Nine a notice letter requiring her response to the allegation
of sexual misconduct regarding her intimate relationship with
Doe. On April 4, Nine requested a complete copy of the
Board's file and noted, "I am appalled at these
allegations, to say the least." On April 19, Nine
provided her initial response to the Board. She admitted
engaging in an intimate relationship with Doe but claimed the
relationship occurred "at the appropriate time."
the Board commenced an investigation into the matter, Nine
admitted that she had an intimate relationship with Doe in
August 2011 that she later ended. Nine subsequently
cooperated fully with the Board and commission. The
investigation revealed that Doe did not suffer any financial
harm because of the intimate relationship, nor did he claim
any emotional or mental harm.
April 11, 2018, the Board filed a complaint against Nine
alleging that she had engaged in sexual relations with a
client in violation of Iowa Rule of Professional Conduct
32:1.8(j) and made a false statement of material fact in
connection with a disciplinary matter in violation of rule
32:8.1. Nine filed her answer on May 9, admitting all of the
allegations except the alleged violation of rule 32:8.1. On
June 8, the Board filed an amended complaint, which removed
the alleged violation of rule 32:8.1. Nine filed a written
consent to the amended complaint on June 8.
28, the Board and Nine submitted a joint stipulation pursuant
to Iowa Court Rule 36.16, waiving the formal hearing. The
parties agreed that Nine violated rule 32:1.8(j). The matter
was submitted to the commission for its consideration on July
17. The commission issued its findings and recommendation on
September 10, in which it found the violation of rule
32:1.8(j) was factually supported. The commission recommended
that we suspend Nine's license for thirty days.