Pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery charge.
The state Supreme Court unanimously agreed Thursday to disbar a Jacksonville attorney who engaged in sexual activities with two clients while interviewing them in jail.
A referee who heard the case recommended an 18-month suspension for attorney Anthony Wayne Blackburn, who was arrested in September 2016 after visiting two women clients at the pretrial detention facility.
He was accused of soliciting sexual conduct with one client by depositing money in her bank account and soliciting the other client by promising free or discounted legal services, the Supreme Court decision said. Blackburn pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge and sought treatment through a lawyers’ assistance program.
The court said he should be disbarred instead of receiving the recommended suspension.
“In summary, evidenced by this Court’s case law, under no circumstances should an attorney representing a client expose that client to unwanted sexual relations of any kind. Respondent’s conduct, which exploited his clients’ circumstances for his own personal benefit, ‘breeds contempt and distrust of lawyers,’ ‘demonstrates severe moral turpitude,’ and such actions ‘are wholly inconsistent with approved professional standards.’ ” the decision said, quoting case law.
Blackburn was suspended for 30 days in December 2014 for minor professional misconduct related to his handling of a child custody case.