COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – An attorney in Lancaster County had his law license suspended on ethics violations involving a juvenile client.
Andrew Russ was issued a two-year suspension with one year stayed after he was found to have tried to initiate a sexual relationship with a client he was assigned to out of the juvenile court.
The client was represented by Russ in a case after her newborn daughter was born with fentanyl in her system.
According to the court records, Russ fostered a relationship with the client, giving her a job at his office and said that he wanted to be a father figure to her since she had no family support.
Russ then began sending the client inappropriate text messages asking for nude photos and saying that he was interested in a “daddy/daughter dynamic” and was interested in a relationship both “in and outside the bedroom,” according to the investigation.
The client reported the text messages to the father of her child saying, “my lawyer is a creep,” and also alerted the guardian ad litem assigned to her case.
At first, Russ denied the allegations and suggested that the client was lying to create leverage in her case, but then admitted to the messages once he knew that the disciplinary panel had copies of the messages.
In addition to the ethics violations, Russ was also sanctioned for being habitually late to court cases.
The board found that Russ acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, engaged in a pattern of misconduct, committed multiple offenses, made a false statement during the disciplinary process, and harmed a vulnerable client.
Russ submitted to a psychological assessment, began counseling, and entered into a two-year contract with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP).
The Court noted that even though there was no sexual contact, there is little question that soliciting sex from a vulnerable client can be harmful to the client.