Ohio Lawyer Fights To Retain License After Disclosure That He Had Affair With The Wife Of Client On Trial For Murder

DNA, Robert J. Caulley, ODRC photoarticle-2488871-193CBB3C00000578-184_306x423How would you like to be up for a double murder and then learn that your lawyer was sleeping with your wife during the trial? That is what Robert Caulley learned after he was sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder of a father and mother. Then he learned that his now ex-wife (no surprise there) was sleeping with his lawyer, James D. Owen. Owen is now trying to keep his license while admitting that he violated the core ethical rules governing our profession. Not only did he have an affair with the wife of a client, but could be viewed as having an incentive to shackle the cuckold. If his client were to lose, it could be viewed as a good way to get rid of an inconvenient husband.

In what was viewed as a burglary gone bad, Lois and Charles Caulley were beaten and stabbed to death in their home on Jan. 16, 1994. Robert Caulley was the one who called police after he said that he found their bodies. Three years later, the police subjected Caulley to an unrecorded interrogation and obtained a confession that he later said was coerced.

The disclosure came out 14 years after the trial. It was revealed that he would have sex with the wife in his office and at a cabin. Only hours after the conviction of his client, Owen allegedly took Celeste Caulley Bowman to a local motel to have sex. She says in an affidavit that it was in the tryst after the conviction that Owen said that he loved her. Bad timing all around.

She said that they would have sex as many as four times a week and that Owen encouraged her to leave Caulley.

She had been married to Caulley for eight years before his conviction. They divorced in 2000.

To her credit, Bowman has come forward, if belatedly, to help her former husband. Caulley has been granted a new trial. The question is whether this ethical breach 15 years ago should bar Owen from practicing law.

The Caulley trial is notably omitted from the list of famous cases on Owen’s website. He is a graduate of Capital University Law School.

What do you think? Should this be a disbarring offense after he admitted guilt or should he face suspension only?

Source: Dispatch

25 thoughts on “Ohio Lawyer Fights To Retain License After Disclosure That He Had Affair With The Wife Of Client On Trial For Murder”

  1. This case reminded me of one of my favorite movies involving a dimwitted lawyer. Body Heat with Kathleen Turner as temptress. It can be hard out here for a lawyer.

    Then of course there was Cape Fear. Which raises the question of what kind of justice might be served up if Robert Caulley gets out. Even if he doesn’t, some one of his cellmates will. It is certainly true that there is plenty of time to plan while doing your piece. With a situation this complicated, State Bar discipline might be the least of Robert’s worries.

  2. Dan, lawyers sign up to a set of rules, and this guy knew he was violating the rules. He has to go. This is what we sign up for!
    Now that aside, how would you feel if you were the client, thinking maybe the guy tanked, even a little bit, because the ex was whispering in his ear?

  3. NeighborDaveSays: Come on man, you are done and the fork is in. If this guy is not permanently disbarred, all real lawyers in Ohio should quit in protest. Really, not close.

  4. Dan,
    Every professional ethical code I know of, for every licensed profession, has a proscription against dual relationships. Ethics committees operate under the presumption that the conflict of interest created by the dual relationship is the actionable offense. Not whether he was ineffective counsel in the case.

    Secondly, sexual relationships with a client or a client’s family member by an “authority figure” is presumed to be (potentially) coercive. Again, unethical.

  5. “Whether it actually did or not is irrelevant, as long as the potential is there.”

    Do you really think that whether the lawyer did or did not act unethically is an irrelevancy to this case?

    The blog post doesn’t say there was any specific charge of doing or failing to do something related to that defendant. Is he to be disbarred because he was _able_ to maintain a separation between his private and professional life? Seems backwards.

  6. What do you think? Should this be a disbarring offense after he admitted guilt or should he face suspension only?” – JT

    I really don’t know. But the guy should get his retainer back.

  7. Dan,
    What he did wrong was create an untenable dual relationship. The question became one of having the potential to cause him to be less motivated to do the best job possible for his client. Whether it actually did or not is irrelevant, as long as the potential is there. The defendant may have been convicted regardless, but the dual relationship ethical conflict was there.

  8. It would seem that there is significant risk that the representation of the client will be impacted by the attorney’s affair with the client’s wife.

    Were I the client I would also wonder about what constituted “billable hours” during that period of time. 👿

    The client was on trial for a double murder … of his parents!

    ‘Owen “had been distracted to an extent that greatly hindered his preparation and trial performance,” Judge John Martin said. “Counsel spent inordinate amounts of time with Celeste (Caulley) Bowman and shunned the rest of his investigators and assistants, leading to mistakes.”‘ (reasoning in granting a new trial which was sought by an Ohio public defender)

    ‘”I felt like I had fallen off a cliff into a deep hole and didn’t know how to get out of it,” Owen reportedly told the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.’

    On the other hand … ‘Owen’s website has an endorsement by Playboy Magazine that calls him a “renowned criminal defense lawyer.”‘ … so he does have that going for him.

    And … oh yeah, he was just diagnosed as suffering from “severe attention deficit disorder, a disability characterized by lack of focus, procrastination and impulsive actions “without thinking through the consequences.” But not to worry, he’s on medication now and functioning just fine.

    The affair started in ’97 and ended in ’98.


  9. If Robert Caulley were to have been acquitted, I could see him only being suspended. It would prove he had only the best intentions for his client, however……

  10. Dan thinks that Clinton didn’t do anything wrong and that Gingrich only did wrong because he was pretending to be a good old family values conservative.

    In a society where divorce and infidelity are commonplace, it is nonsensical to make charges of misconduct on those bases.

  11. I don’t see what the lawyer is said to have done wrong. Surely adults are allowed to have sex with whoever they want. She was not his client. There has been no suggestion that the lawyer failed in his duty to his client at any stage. What’s the basis for the claim? Some twee little expectation of fidelity? Prurient tut-tuting?

  12. That would be “cuckold”, not “cockcold”. It may be that it was cold, but — well, never mind.

  13. Why isn’t this lawyer running for public office under the republican party? He’s a perfect fit. That way he could be disbarred and still hold the high ground. Its been done before ya know.

  14. Disbar him. But which photo is the lawyer and which is the client? They look the same. Wifeypoo could say that she was drunk and thought she was sleeping with hubbypoo and forgot he (real hubbypoo) was locked up.
    Disbar the lawyer. No porkin while on duty. No stealin from the client’s trough. Never let the lawyer set foot in a courtroom again. He is a rattler and if not a copperhead. If he lives down South then more likely a copperhead. Snake in the grass. I would say more and worse but WordPress would censor the words.

  15. However, no matter the case, when the little head does the thinking it is never good. He has to be disbarred.

  16. On its face….I’d say disbar…..but, I’d like to see the transcripts of the proceeding….. It may merit an admonishment, suspension to disbarment….

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