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Attorney suspended after affair with his client

The Missouri Supreme Court has suspended for at least six months the license of a Blue Springs attorney who had an affair with his client while he was representing her on a child-custody matter.

The court suspended Michael Spiegel, a solo practitioner at Spiegel Law who focuses on domestic relations. He is also assistant city attorney and prosecutor for the city of Buckner.

His discipline case stems from his representation of a woman identified in the record as C.D., beginning in early 2013.

C.D. was referred to Spiegel by staff at Hope House, a domestic violence shelter in which C.D. was temporarily residing, according to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s brief.

At the time, she was seeking custody of her child, and she alleged her child’s father, identified as J.Z., physically abused her.

C.D. and Spiegel previously knew each other but had no prior relationship. The two went on to have a four-month sexual relationship while he represented her, OCDC’s brief said.

In May 2013, C.D. informed Spiegel she wanted to stop sleeping with him, OCDC’s brief said. She expected he would continue to represent her zealously in the pending custody modification litigation, but he lost interest in the case, she testified later.

C.D. believed Spiegel’s representation of her led to her losing custody of her child from August 2013, when he withdrew as her attorney, until December 2013.

Spiegel admitted to a violation of Rule 4-1.8(j) — which prohibits a lawyer from having a sexual relationship with a client unless it existed before the attorney-client relationship began — before the disciplinary hearing panel.

In August 2019, the panel ruled that Spiegel violated Rule 4-1.7(a)(2), Rule 4-1.8(j) and Rule 4-8.4(d).

The panel recommended a year of probation. Spiegel accepted the recommendation, but OCDC rejected it.

The court did not issue a full opinion but ruled in line with the panel, finding that Spiegel violated Rule 4-1.7, which prohibits lawyers from representing a client if there is a significant risk that the representation will be materially limited by the personal interests of the lawyer.

Spiegel previously denied violating that rule. The court also ordered Spiegel to pay a $1,000 fee.

James C. Morrow of Morrow Willnauer Church represented Spiegel. He did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The case is In Re: Spiegel, SC98155.