Glenn Robinson’s law license suspended in sexual harassment case

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By , VTDigger.org

Newport attorney Glenn Robinson’s license to practice law has been suspended by the board that regulates the legal profession in Vermont, following a board ruling that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a woman employed in his law office, and a client he was representing in a divorce.

The two-year suspension was issued by the Vermont Professional Responsibility Board.

Special bar prosecutor Robert Simpson, the retired Chittenden County state’s attorney who argued the case against Robinson before the board, had sought to have Robinson disbarred for his conduct.

Robinson’s attorney, Scott McGee, released a statement on Wednesday saying that while Robinson “disagrees” with the board’s decision, he did not plan to appeal it.

Robinson is the stepson of former Attorney General M. Jerome Diamond, and the stepbrother of Deputy Attorney General Joshua Diamond, who drafted an agreement for Robinson that played a role in the board’s ruling.

Commonly known as a Consensual Relationship Agreement — or “love contract” — the agreement was between Robinson and a female employee, P.B.

Diamond had written a first draft of the agreement at Robinson’s request in 2012, long before he joined the attorney general’s office. The board found that Diamond committed no wrongdoing in drafting the agreement for his stepbrother. Diamond has expressed regret for his involvement in the matter.

In the agreement P.B. promised not to pursue legal action against Robinson if the sexual relationship in which they were engaged ended badly. Robinson made some changes in the language of the agreement before he and P.B. signed it.

Such agreements have become commonplace in recent years, and are typically entered into by consenting adults to reduce the risk of a sexual harassment claim arising from an office romance gone awry by documenting the relationship is consensual.

However, the hearing panel found the agreement between Robinson and P.B. contributed to Robinson’s “quid pro quo” sexual harassment of P.B. — essentially a coercive demand by a supervisor for sexual favors in exchange for continued employment — because it put P.B. “in a position where she could not as a practical matter assert a claim of discrimination or harassment against her employer going forward.”

The panel noted Robinson’s failure to obtain written acknowledgement from P.B. that he had advised her to get her own lawyer to represent her legal interests in the affair. “Any lawyer in a situation where he or she felt the need to give such advice to an unrepresented person would do so in writing,” the decision said.

In its 103-page ruling the board also found credible other allegations against Robinson, including that he masturbated in the presence of women in his office, and that he threw paper clips toward the breasts and cleavage of P.B., who, the panel found, had been subjected to a hostile work environment.

The board also found that by engaging in a sexual relationship with a client, C.M., whom he was representing in a divorce, Robinson created a conflict of interest between his professional role and personal involvement that violated legal ethics rules.

Simpson had argued to the board that the relationship had interfered with Robinson’s ability to represent his client.

Robinson “recklessly permitted his desire to preserve that relationship to prevent him from providing her with a dispassionate assessment of her case,” one of Simpson’s filings said. C.M. ended up dissatisfied with the outcome of her case. “I just got nothing. I lost everything I worked 17 years for,” Simpson quoted C.M. as saying.

In the case of a third woman, the panel said it could not find conclusive evidence that Robinson’s behavior was sufficiently unwelcome as to constitute sexual harassment.

In its ruling, issued Monday, the board found that Robinson’s conduct was knowing, rather than negligent.

“He was fully aware of his conduct and he was engaging in that conduct to achieve a particular result — his own gratification,” the ruling said.

Robinson will be allowed to apply for restoration of his license after two years. He will be required to demonstrate his fitness to practice law. Even were he disbarred, Robinson would be allowed to apply to have his license restored after five years.

“Mr. Robinson has expressed his deep regret to his clients and to his family for allowing
office relationships to affect his continued service to his clients,” McGee said in the statement released Wednesday. “He looks forward to obtaining his reinstatement after completing his period of suspension.”

The board’s decision can be appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court by Robinson or the bar prosecutor within 30 days. Unlike in standard civil cases, the state’s highest court also is allowed to review professional conduct cases without any appeal being filed. The court announced Wednesday that it intended to do so in this case.

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