A Minnesota lawyer has been suspended indefinitely from practicing law for having an affair with a client, then billing the woman for time they spent having sex.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday that on January 10, the Minnesota Supreme Court indefinitely suspended attorney Thomas P. Lowe from the practice of law for engaging in a sexual relationship with a "vulnerable client" and subsequently "bill[ing] her for meetings in which they engaged in sexual relations."
He cannot petition for reinstatement for at least 15 months, the court said in its order.
The newspaper writes that according to court documents the two had known each other for years when she approached Lowe in August 2011 seeking to obtain a divorce from her husband of 26 years. Lowe,58, agreed to represent the woman in her divorce.
Days after their initial meeting, Lowe phoned the woman, inquiring about her sex life with her husband, commenting on her appearance and asking whether she would be interested in having sex. The two began an affair in September 2011 that lasted until the following March, Minnesota's KSTP-TV writes.
The client, who wasn't identified by name, told Lowe at the beginning of the attorney-client relationship that she had been sexually abused by a high-school coach and had attempted suicide as a result of the abuse, the petition said.
Throughout this affair, Lowe and the client had sex at hotels, the client’s home and in his car while parked at a restaurant. Records show Lowe fraudulently recorded their encounters on billing statements as meetings and memo draftings.
When Lowe’s wife discovered the relationship, he blamed the client “for ruining his marriage and threatened to commit suicide.” Though the client sought professional help for depression, insomnia and panic attacks at that time, Lowe continued to have sexual relations with her for two months, the petition stated.
The client attempted suicide the month after her relationship with Lowe broke off. Court filings say the woman revealed her affair with Lowe while hospitalized following the suicide attempt.
On the same day, Lowe withdrew as her attorney and sent her a bill stating that she still owed him money.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press states the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility first brought a petition against Lowe in July. After initially denying the accusations, a court document says Lowe now "unconditionally admits the allegations."
The incident is not Lowe’s first professional ethical lapse as an attorney. In 1997, Lowe was placed on probation for using cocaine and aiding in the purchase of the drug for a client.