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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Laying down the law...

First Brief:

The other afternoon my friend Thagg migrated in from the 'burbs for a visit. As it had been a beastly hot day, we spent the afternoon sitting in the relative cool of my living room discussing the abominable state of the universe.

Inevitably, the conversation turned to this item:
Lawyers attending the Canadian Bar Association's annual meeting were passionate Sunday in their rejection of proposed new rules and guidelines governing sexual relationships with clients.

An overwhelming majority of delegates, including several of the association's provincial chapters, dismissed two resolutions on the delicate issue as paternalistic, stereotypical and vague.

"Who are we to impose a prohibition on falling in love?" Montreal lawyer Chantale Masse asked during the hour-long debate.

Most of the discussion centred on a resolution to completely ban sexual relationships between lawyers and clients.

Another motion, which was also soundly defeated, intended to serve more as a warning to lawyers to steer clear of any romances that could be influenced by an imbalance of power or exploitation.
Neither Thagg or myself are lawyers, but we both agreed that this was an incredible piece of idiocy on the part of the CBA.

It was Thagg who raised the question "If a lawyer has sex with a client, and then subsequently bills the client for the time...can the lawyer be charged with 'living off the avails of prostitution'?" My response was that it is perfectly legal for an individual (in Canada, at least) to charge for sex. However, I added, if the lawyer works for a law firm and part of his/her fees go to the firm, the law firm could possibly be charged with that offense.

Then the question arose as to whether or not the lawyer could be charged with soliciting sex in a public place if the sex occurred in the law office. I thought it would depend on whether or not the law firm actually owned its premises, but Thagg (who has some background in real estate) was of the opinion that since it is an office and is essentially open to the public (either through invititation or by walk-in), so it could, in fact, be considered a public place. It wasn't until after Thagg left that I thought of the question "If the sex occurred in the law office, could the law firm be charged with keeping a common bawdyhouse?"

It all provided a few minutes of amusing conversation and, even though having the answers to these questions would be interesting (to say the least), it would appear (at least as far as the attitude of the CBA is concerned) that seeking a legal opinion on them would be somewhat pointless...

Second Brief:

This could put new meaning into the phrase "civil law":
Ever feel like shouting, "Get a life!" to someone whose boorish behavior grows wearisome?

That's what federal Judge Sam Sparks of Austin did recently after tiring of feuding lawyers in a case before him that inspired an order so unusual and blunt that it has gained fame on the Internet.

The former El Paso lawyer wrote that he felt ready for the challenge when President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the bench 13 years ago.

"No one warned the undersigned that in many instances his responsibility would be the same as a person who supervised kindergarten," Sparks wrote in a July 21 order. "Frankly, the undersigned would guess the lawyers in this case did not attend kindergarten as they never learned how to get along well with others."

Sparks complained in the order that the lawyers had cluttered his Austin court with "antagonistic motions full of personal insults ... earning the disgust of this court."

"The court simply wants to scream to these lawyers, 'Get a life' or 'Do you have any other cases?' or 'When is the last time you registered for anger management classes?' "

A clerk in the federal courthouse in Austin says calls have come in from across the country -- some wanting to know whether the order "is for real."

It is.
You can download a copy of Judge Sparks order here.