The Supreme Courtroom of Ohio right now suspended a Coshocton lawyer for two decades, with the second yr stayed, for getting an inappropriate sexual connection with a consumer, then lying about it to disciplinary authorities.
In a per curiam viewpoint, the Supreme Courtroom discovered Kevin Cox violated many principles governing the expert carry out of lawyers when he had sex with a lady he was symbolizing in the course of her divorce. The Court docket rejected Cox’s argument that he deserves only a community reprimand coupled with added continuing authorized schooling necessities for sending inappropriate textual content messages to his shopper.
Throughout the disciplinary proceedings, Cox denied possessing a physical sexual relationship with the girl. The Court discovered “the proof clearly and convincingly demonstrates” the legal professional experienced a sexual connection with his consumer, despatched her sexually charged textual content messages and emails, and lied about both facets of the partnership.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner joined the viewpoint. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only.
Regulation Firm Discovers Sexual Messages
Cox worked for McCleery Legislation Agency in 2017. He was assigned to represent a customer identified in courtroom information as “V.W.” and was advised to take care of her with care simply because she was the firm’s most significant shopper, specified the fees her circumstance would create.
Cox represented V.W. right until February 2019, when he withdrew from the case. The McCleery Agency represented V.W. all through her divorce, which became closing in January 2020. A handful of months prior to her divorce was remaining, V.W. disclosed to the agency that she experienced engaged in a sexual romantic relationship with Cox, stating they started getting sex inside of three weeks of conference in 2017.
In the course of her divorce proceedings, V.W. denied owning an “affair” with Cox. Right after the proceedings, Gregory McCleery, the principal of the McCleery legislation business, questioned V.W. for evidence with regards to the relationship with Cox. She presented copies of various textual content messages and email messages she exchanged with Cox.
McCleery 1st confronted Cox in February 2020 by demonstrating him some of the messages V.W. delivered. Cox denied he had a sexual marriage with the client. McCleery filed a grievance with the Business office of Disciplinary Counsel, which started an investigation.
Law firm Denied Allegations
In his initial responses to the disciplinary counsel, Cox denied any sexual partnership. Through a November 2020 deposition, Cox testified that he did not remember sending textual content messages to V.W. and, when requested if it was “possible he despatched them,” he answered, “No.” Cox later on claimed to the disciplinary counsel that he thought the text messages came from his mobile phone.
Cox also denied the email tackle made use of to send messages to V.W. belonged to him and denied utilizing the account to exchange email messages with her. The disciplinary counsel attained records from Google linking Cox to the account, and Cox afterwards testified it was “possible” he despatched the e-mail messages to V.W.
Conflicting Accounts Offered at Hearing
Centered on McCleery’s grievance, the disciplinary counsel filed a complaint from Cox with the Board of Specialist Perform. A a few-member board panel carried out a hearing, wherever V.W. and Cox offered conflicting accounts of their relationship.
V.W. testified that she and Cox commonly had intercourse, largely at her residence starting in 2017. She testified the marriage deteriorated in February 2019 when she recognized that Cox was nevertheless dwelling with his spouse, even while it was her being familiar with he was separated.
Cox experienced challenged the truthfulness of V.W.’s promises of a sexual romance, noting that during the divorce proceedings she denied possessing an affair with him.
V.W. advised the disciplinary panel that, throughout her divorce, she did not equate acquiring intercourse with Cox with an affair since she was separated from her spouse. She testified had she been questioned in the course of the divorce proceedings if she experienced sex with Cox, she would have answered, “Yes.”
The listening to panel concluded that V.W.’s account of the connection was much more credible than Cox’s. The board agreed with the panel’s conclusion that Cox violated a number of moral procedures, such as 1 that prohibits engaging in sexual activity with a customer unless a consensual sexual relationship existed prior to the consumer-lawyer marriage. The board also uncovered Cox created false statements in relationship with a disciplinary subject and engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Supreme Courtroom Considered Attorney’s Objections
Cox objected to the board’s advice that he be suspended for two several years from the observe of regulation, with the second year stayed with circumstances. The objections induced oral arguments before the Supreme Court docket.
The Court’s belief pointed out that when the issue achieved the panel hearing, Cox took some responsibility for sending the sexually billed text messages and email messages, when continue to denying any bodily connection.
The belief stated that his objections contradict his personal statements. Cox denied obtaining a bodily romantic relationship with V.W. and “inexplicably claimed” that any sexual exercise concerning the two was consensual.
“In small, Cox has not cooperated in this disciplinary continuing, has not approved accountability for his misconduct, and has not expressed real remorse for his steps,” the view mentioned.
The second yr of Cox’s suspension was stayed on the condition that he not dedicate even further misconduct and finish six hours of continuing authorized instruction focused on appropriate behaviors and boundaries with clientele. He also need to pay the charges of the disciplinary proceedings.
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