An Iowa lawyer caught having oral sex with a client in a courthouse library has received an 18-month suspension from practice.

The Supreme Court of Iowa on Feb. 11 suspended Clovis Bowles after it determined that he violated attorney ethics rules by having sex with a client and obstructing an investigation into the matter. Bowles represented the client in a custody battle for her three children.

“He breached the trust bestowed on members of the bar when he engaged in sex acts with a vulnerable client who sought his professional assistance in a matter of profound personal significance,” the court wrote.

Bowles, who reportedly practiced in Waterloo, Iowa, could not be reached for comment.

Bowles met the client and agreed to represent her in 2007 on the day that she was discharged from a mental health facility after she attempted suicide, according to the factual findings of the court. During their second meeting, she became distraught when explaining her past problems with drugs and alcohol. Bowles asked if he could kiss her and then had sex with her in his office.

The two continued a sexual relationship, but the attorney-client relationship quickly broke down. The client filed a complaint with the attorney disciplinary board and retained new counsel. Bowles denied the relationship and, according to the court, relied on a false affidavit in which the client denied having sex with him. Later, the two renewed their relationship, and the client, believing that her chances to regain custody could be improved, married Bowles, an arrangement that lasted about six weeks.

Some time after the marriage was dissolved, the client faced a contempt charge in the custody matter and asked Bowles to meet her at the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Iowa. According to the court findings, the client believed that having sex with Bowles would induce him to represent her the following day at the contempt hearing. She began performing oral sex on him in the library when an unidentified person came in and interrupted them.

Later that day, Bowles told a district court judge that he had engaged in sex with a client at the courthouse earlier. The judge told him to report the misconduct, to seek mental health treatment and not to represent the client any further. However, Bowles represented the client the following day at the hearing.

The Iowa Supreme Court in its Feb. 11 decision found that Bowles obstructed the investigation of the matter by using the false affidavit and that he violated ethics rules pertaining to sex with a client. However, it determined that he did not violate rules related to representing a client with a diminished capacity. The court found that although she was vulnerable, her problems did not create a diminished capacity. The court further determined that Bowles’ sex acts did not constitute conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, although his use of the false affidavit did.

“The respondent committed a separate violation of our disciplinary rules when he facilitated the client’s preparation of a false affidavit and then relied on the document to obstruct the investigation and prosecution of the matter,” the court said.

Writing the opinion of the court was Judge Daryl Hecht.

Representing the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board was Charles Harrington. Bowles appeared pro se.

Leigh Jones can be contacted at ljones@alm.com.