“The Couch of Restitution” (Or, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea vs. The Devil in Miss Jones)

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In a previous blog (feels like ages ago:I really must get out from under this blizzard of work!) I discussed the alienation of various aspects of human capacities and attributes, among them the sale of sexual services and the sale of “caring.” I noted that, as per Professor Margaret Jane Radin, one significant reason for banning the sale of sexual services is the notion that commodification of this deeply intimate, personal human capacity could ultimately lead to dehumanization. This is true even in many cases where the seller of the sexual service ostensibly has a choice in whether or not to place her or his body into commerce. All too often “choice” is a slippery concept, and is strained to breaking in situations where the chooser has few viable options.

Consider a recent article in the  ABA Journal that describes the case of a lawyer who allowed some clients to discharge legal fees by joining him on what he called his “couch of restitution” for sexual activity. After a client complained to the attorney ethics board in her state, ultimately the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board reviewed the matter and sanctioned the attorney by suspending his license to practice for 180 days. More than one client, had, in fact, complained to authorities that the lawyer had offered them the “couch of restitution” in exchange for legal services. According to the ABA Journal, the board opinion noted, “The high degree of similarity of these separate accounts established respondent’s system of making sexual overtures to female clients who were seeking legal assistance in a domestic matter. These overtures occurred during a discussion of his legal fees.”

It is perhaps not a surprise that women seeking assistance in domestic matters from mostly male lawyers might be asked to perform sexual services in exchange for a benefit.  Continue reading the rest of the post here.

-Lolita Buckner Inniss

(cross-post from Ain’t I a Feminist Legal Scholar, Too?)

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