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Does Your 3-Way With a Client Count as Sex? It Depends.

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 21, 2016 4:06 PM

You know, there are times when you think you've read it all, but then history taps on your shoulder politely to remind that you haven't. Take for example, the old gem of In re Inglimo, which asks the question: "does a three-way with a client count as sex with a client?"

The answer, it turns out, depends on your interpretation of "with." Thanks to Eugene Volokh for reminding us.

Accounts Receivable Indeed

The outlandish and bawdy behavior of some attorneys can amaze even the most jaded in the industry and this case stands out as one of the best. We hope you enjoy.

The rated PG version of the facts basically go like this. Way back in the mid-2000s, a man (P.K.) retained Wisconsin and Minnesota-licensed attorney Michael Inglimo, who he had known for almost a decade, to represent him in numerous matters.

But payment wasn't in the usual boring form of cash, check or credit card -- oh, no. As payment for attorney's fees receivable for past representation, Inglimo accepted sex with P.K.'s girlfriend (or wife...frankly, it's getting hard to keep Inglimo's sexcapades apart). P.K. did not sit out the payment session, however. The event was a ménage à trois.

World's Most Original Receipt

It gets weirder too. The three people involved in the sex-for-payment modification agreed to video-tape the entire encounter so as to avoid any possible future disputes that the debt was paid in full.

This gives the term "accord and satisfaction" a whole new dimension, we must say.

It Depends on What Your Definition of "With" Is

If anyone is really interested, the video-taped encounter was one of only a few of Inglimo's misdeeds. Check out his libertine-practice CV on the Wisconsin bar website, which catalogs his disciplinary proceedings. His law office could have been named Caligula Law Firm.

Caligula-Inglimo somewhat managed to get the velvet treatment from both the state's Office of Lawyer Regulation and Wisconsin's Supreme Court. Although he admitted to engaging in sex with his client's girlfriend, he apparently did not run afoul of the applicable ethical rule, SCR 20:1.8(k), because he didn't touch his client and therefore was not engaged in sex "with" his client. Ah... So, if he'd brought his client in on the action too in the heat of passion, the result would be different.

Does this mean you can have a ring of spectator-clients in the same room with you watching you have a sexual encounter with someone else and still be consistent with the rules? Ludicrous! Just how "with" does one have to be? We admire a staunch respect for bright-line rules but scenarios like this really seen to stretch what most would find acceptable. And this is the sort of Clinton-esque chicanery that makes lawyers the butt of jokes.

But even more stunning than Inglimo's conduct was the fact that he was treated so well by the state's disciplinary authorities. Almost everyone else can agree that Inglimo was treated with kid gloves. Suspended for three years? Only?

In other states, simply mismanaging client funds would be grounds for disbarment. It's true what they say about Wisconsinites -- they are nicer and friendlier.

Suspended not for Sex, but for Crack, Commingling, Dishonesty...

In the words of another blogger "[t]his man was serious about his vices." But sex wasn't the only one. He also dabbled into snorting cocaine off of mirrors with clients as well -- though apparently reasonable minds can disagree. According to the state's Supreme Court disciplinary proceeding documents, Inglimo had claimed that the snorted substance in question wasn't really cocaine, "it may have been flour or salt." 'Course, he might have gotten away with that one had he not, like an idiot, videotaped himself snorting this "flour" as well.

Ultimately, Inglimo's three-year suspension from the law was technically a result of his dipping into client funds, his "flour" habits, and other disbarment worthy behaviors -- not his sex without touching his client.

So, know this. If you plan to practice in Wisconsin, just be careful of your payment means and always be sure to include a receipt. We're sorry, but we can't point to you any practice management software that can handle sex tape accounting. Just don't touch your client.

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