Henry Baskin, chairman of Oakland University’s Board of Trustees and prominent Detroit-area attorney, is under fire for allegedly having a sexual relationship with one of his former clients.
The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, which investigates conduct-related inquires regarding attorneys of Michigan, filed charges against Baskin in April.
According to the Attorney Discipline Board’s formal complaint against him, Baskin allegedly “violated the standards or rules of professional conduct adopted by the supreme court” while representing a client from 1999 to 2004. Additionally, the complaint states that Baskin “engaged in conduct that is contrary to justice, ethics, honesty or good morals.”
Robert Edick, deputy administrator of the Attorney Grievance Commission, issued the formal complaint against Baskin on April 11 of this year.
In the complaint, Baskin is accused of committing adultery, a punishable criminal offense in the state of Michigan, although rarely enforced.
The complaint states that Baskin, while serving a female client throughout her divorce proceedings, had a sexual relationship with her. However, the felony of committing adultery has a one year statute of limitations in Michigan, so Baskin will not be subject to punishment as rendered by state law.
If found guilty, Baskin could still face consequences within the professional realm. According to Susan Evans, attorney and OU professor consequences could include a reprimand, a suspension or complete revocation of his law license, although a revocation would be unlikley.
The commision’s report also alleged that Baskin took advantage of his client while she was in a vulnerable state.
Baskin’s lawyer, Kenneth Mogill, agreed with the grievance commission that it is improper for an attorney to take advantage of a client in any way. However, he believes Baskin did not. Mogill also denies that Baskin breached the standards of professional conduct. In fact, Mogill suggests that the complaint against Baskin brings forth important issue with the system itself.
“This case raises fundamental questions of fairness in the attorney disciplinary system,” Mogill said. “Substantively, the grievance commission is trying to change rules on what is permissible private personal conduct for an attorney, and that is not acceptable. Procedurally, they’re trying to ask individuals to recreate what did or did not occur over twelve years ago, and that is procedurally inappropriate as well.”
Despite Edick’s claim, Mogill said that the notion of Baskin being accused of adultery is both unfair and inaccurate.
“Michigan rules do not prohibit an attorney and client from developing a legitimate, intimate relationship,” Mogill said. “The commission is trying to change that retroactively.”
Mogill will make a motion to have the complaint dismissed by the Attorney Discipline Board this month. A legal committee will begin hearing information on the case during the month of October.
Ted Montgomery, OU’s media relations director, declined comment on the case, citing “This is a personal matter, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment.”
Robert Edick was unavailable for comment.