A Georgia lawyer who allegedly had an affair with a client and spied on him and later lied to a disciplinary board about her actions was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Georgia Oct. 7.
The court agreed with the board that Sherri Jefferson violated professional conduct rules prohibiting lying to a tribunal; acting dishonestly; and contacting a person she knew to be represented by an attorney, “a violation of any one of which is sufficient to support disbarment.”
Jefferson had an affair with the client while representing him in a custody modification action, the court said based on the record in the case. But when the client moved on to another woman, Jefferson hired a private investigator to spy on him, his son, and the woman, the court said.
She also disparaged the woman to the woman’s employer, it said.
The woman and the former client filed charges of stalking and defamation against Jefferson as well as a bar complaint. Jefferson made up lies in her defense, the court said, including that she had to have contact with her former client because she was his attorney in a pending case. Jefferson also communicated directly with the woman about the charges and the bar complaint, despite knowing that she was represented by counsel, it added.
Jefferson refused to testify at a sanctions hearing held after she didn’t respond to discovery requests, citing the Fifth Amendment, the court said. She was therefore found to be in default and deemed to have admitted the allegations in the complaint, it said.
These admitted facts support the finding that Jefferson violated three professional conduct rules, warranting disbarment, the court concluded.
But Jefferson, in a motion to vacate the court’s ruling, said that the court ignored the record in the case, relied on factual inaccuracies, and alleges that the disciplinary process—particularly the sanctions hearing—denied her due process rights and other protections under the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.
“The appellee has never given any dishonest statements and the record is devoid of any evidence of such conduct,” Jefferson wrote in a copy of the motion provided to Bloomberg Law. The Georgia Supreme Court’s docket lists the motion as filed on Oct. 8.
The case is In re Jefferson, 2019 BL 381479, Ga., No. S19Y0527, 10/7/19.