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Jacksonville lawyer disbarred over sexual conduct with clients

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Going beyond a recommended punishment, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously agreed to disbar a Duval County attorney who engaged in sexual activities with two clients in jail interview rooms.

A referee who heard the case had recommended an 18-month suspension for attorney Anthony Wayne Blackburn, who was arrested in 2016 after visiting two women clients at the county pretrial-detention facility.

Blackburn 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.

But the Supreme Court said he should be disbarred instead of receiving the recommended 18-month suspension.

“In summary, evidenced by this (Supreme) 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 Supreme Court decision said, quoting case law.