The public radio show, This American Life, started out this week with an excellent piece on the human cost of attorney betrayal. Although Ira Glass avoids giving the name of the attorney, the piece is likely about the three year suspension of Gregory A. Mikat, a Michigan attorney. Mikat was suspended for having a sexual relationship with his client’s wife. To make matters worse, Mikat was representing the client in a divorce action, and his client came to him to discuss his suspicions that his client was having an affair.
This is not the only case of attorney discipline for having affairs with clients’ wives. The Supreme Court of South Carolina has ruled having an affair with a client’s wife is a per se ethical violation due to conflict of interest. A Memphis attorney, Charles Sevier, was suspended for one year for having an affair with his client’s wife before representing the client in a divorce action. San Francisco attorney, LeRue Grim, was suspended for 2 1/2 years for lying about having sex with a client’s wife while the client was in prison.
The Mississippi Supreme Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, William Reed, in a case which involved a claim of breach of fiduciary duty due to Reed having an affair with a client’s wife, showing once again that just because something is unethical, it is not necessarily actionable. Fellow Mississippi lawyer, Ronald Pierce, was not so lucky as the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the $1.5 judgment against him for alienation of affection, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, due to his affair with his client’s wife. Last January, a new trial was ordered for an Ohio man, Robert Caulley, who was convicted of killing his parents because Caulley’s defense attorney, James D. Owen, was having an affair with Caulley’s wife at the time he represented Caulley.
Suffice it to say, under any circumstance, having an affair with your client’s wife is probably not a good idea.