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September 20, 2017

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Lawyers may be banned from sex with clients

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S.' largest state bar association is overhauling ethics rules for attorneys for the first time in 30 years, and some lawyers are unhappy about a proposal that would open them up to discipline for having sex with clients.

California currently bars attorneys from coercing a client into sex or demanding sex in exchange for legal representation.

Supporters of an all-out ban say the relationship between a lawyer and client is inherently unequal, so any sexual relationship is potentially coercive. But some attorneys say it's an unjustified invasion of privacy.

The proposal is part of a long-awaited shake-up of the state bar association's ethics rules for attorneys, which were last fully revised in 1987. Lawyers who violate the regulations are subject to discipline ranging from private censure to loss of their legal license.

The sex ban has divided the rules revision commission, though similar restrictions are in place in other states. As of May 2015, 17 states had adopted a blanket sex ban drafted by the American Bar Association (ABA), according to an ABA committee that looked at implementation of the group's ban.

Like the ABA ban, California's proposal creates an exception when the sexual relationship preceded the attorney-client relationship.

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