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Of Steamy Sex and Speech in Stalls

When a legal newspaper headlines its story, "Hunter and Firm Sued over Steamy Affair," it is sure to grab attention. As Ontario's Law Times reports, a smoldering series of events led to prominent lawyer George Hunter's resignation as treasurer of The Law Society of Upper Canada and his disciplinary suspension, and they have now sparked a $1.4 million lawsuit against him and one of Canada's largest law firms, Borden Ladner Gervais.

The lawsuit was filed by "AB," an anonymous former client with whom Hunter had a two-and-a-half year affair. The law society, in disciplining Hunter for professional misconduct, found that he started the "sexual/romantic" relationship at a time when the client was "emotionally vulnerable" and after assuring her that he was having no sexual relations with his wife or anyone else. That may have been so as to his wife, but not as to the two women employed at his firm with whom he was sexually involved. One of those women, the lawsuit claims, opened an e-mail to Hunter while he was on vacation and discovered his dalliance with the other, igniting Hunter's confession of all three relationships.

Meanwhile, south of the border in Minnesota, sexual shenanigans enjoy the protection of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That, at least, is the argument raised this week by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of notorious toe-tapper Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), as recounted by Andrew Cohen at the blog Bench Conference. In an amicus brief filed Monday in State of Minnesota v. Craig, the ACLU contends that Sen. Craig's foot-tapping and hand gestures in a bathroom stall amounted to speech protected by the First Amendment. And even if he solicited sex, it was not a crime, the ACLU says, unless police could show he was seeking to have sex in the stall and not a legal liaison elsewhere. Writes Cohen:

I don't know what's richer: that the political future of an archly conservative Republican senator is now in part dependent on an organization that has provided cheap punchlines for Republicans for a generation, or that Minnesota actually has case law that holds that sex in a public restroom bestows upon its participants some sort of privacy right.

I could not find the ACLU's amicus brief online (although you can request a copy from the court). I did find the brief that the ACLU filed in September before the case was appealed, raising the same arguments. Because the Minnesota law under which Craig was charged, the brief contends, "draws no distinction between invitations to have sex in private and invitations to have sex in public, and instead makes liability turn on whether the speech is 'offensive, obscene or abusive,' it is overbroad when applied to sexual speech."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 16, 2008 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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