A Minnesota divorce lawyer has been suspended indefinitely after engaging in an affair with his client and billing her for time spent while the pair was having sex.
Thomas P. Lowe, of Eagan, won’t be eligible for reinstatement for 15 months after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against his improper conduct.
Lowe had known his client for many years, as they are both originally from Valley City, N.D. The woman met with Lowe in August 2011 after she decided to pursue a divorce from her husband.
Lowe agreed to represent the woman, but Lowe soon began toeing ethical boundaries. A few days after he agreed to represent her, Lowe called the woman to ask about her sexual relationship with her husband. He also reportedly commented on her attractiveness and asked if she would be interested in sexual relations.
The pair began their affair in September 2011, despite the fact that Lowe had been married for 27 years and had two kids of his own. After meeting for sexual encounters, Lowe would bill his client for “meetings” or time spent “drafting memos”.
The affair lasted six months before Lowe’s wife became aware of the divorce. Lowe decided to end the affair and sent his client a final bill after withdrawing as her attorney. Lowe’s client, who had been ruled mentally unstable because of past abuse, unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide upon learning that Lowe was breaking off the affair.
After learning of his conduct, the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility sought to have Lowe suspended from practicing law. The Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility said Lowe was in blatant violation of Rule 1.8(j) of the Minnesota Rules for Professional Conduct, which states that “a lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client, unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”
Lowe originally denied the affair, but later admitted to the allegations.
This wasn’t Lowe’s first run in with the law in association with his legal practice. In 1997 he was placed on probation for using cocaine and purchasing the narcotic from a client.
Related sources: Pioneer Press, Star Tribune